Pastor, Church & Law

Negligent Selection of Church Workers—Other Cases

§ 10.06

Key point 10-06. A church may be legally responsible on the basis of negligent selection for injuries resulting from the acts of a minister or other worker not involving sexual misconduct.

Negligent selection claims are not limited to cases involving sexual misconduct. They can arise anytime that a church’s failure to exercise reasonable care in the selection of an employee or volunteer leads to a foreseeable injury. Here are some examples:

  • Using adolescents as attendants in the church nursery.
  • Selecting adult workers without any training in CPR or other resuscitation techniques to accompany a youth group to any event involving swimming or boating.
  • Selecting lay counselors with inadequate professional training.
  • Selecting drivers for any church-sponsored activity without checking their driving record.

For example, if a church uses a driver with a suspended drivers license, or with a history of traffic offenses, then it may be responsible on the basis of negligent selection for injuries caused by the driver’s negligence. To reduce the risk of liability in this context, churches should refrain from using any driver without taking the following steps:

  1. Have each prospective driver complete an application form that asks for the person’s drivers license number, type of drivers license and expiration date, a description of any driving restrictions, and a history of traffic accidents and moving violations.
  2. Ask the church’s liability insurance carrier to check on the individual’s driving record. Often, insurance companies will perform this task if requested, at no charge. The insurance company should be requested to update its research on all drivers of church vehicles periodically, to screen out persons with a recent history of unsafe driving.
  3. Discontinue using any driver if reports are received that he or she is operating a church vehicle in a negligent manner. Fully investigate such reports, and do not use the individual again unless the investigation clearly demonstrates that the complaints were without merit.
  4. If the prospective driver is a new member, then ask for the names and addresses of other churches in which he or she has worked as a driver. Contact those other churches and ask if they are aware of facts that would indicate that the individual should not be used as a driver. Make a written record of such contacts.
  5. Periodically invite a local law enforcement officer to speak to all drivers concerning safety issues.
  6. Require all drivers to immediately inform the church of any traffic convictions.

Key point. The risk management strategies addressed in section 10-04.03 can be used to manage the risk of these other kinds of negligent selection.

Case study

A Georgia court ruled that a member of an unincorporated church could sue his church for injuries he sustained while participating in a construction project, and that the church could be liable for the member’s injuries on the basis of its negligent hiring of an incompetent construction foreman. The court noted that the church made no attempt to investigate the qualifications of the construction foreman. When he volunteered for the job, the church merely accepted his offer without further inquiry. And, although there was some evidence that he had some experience with residential construction, this did not necessarily make him qualified to serve as foreman of the church project. The court noted that he had testified that he had “no background, experience, education, or training in commercial construction.” Further, a builder testified that “a contractor with limited residential experience is not necessarily competent to complete a commercial construction project such as a church addition.” In addition, an engineer reviewed the structure of the platform designed by the foreman and concluded that it was “wholly insufficient for its intended purpose.” This evidence persuaded the court that the victim could sue the church for negligent hiring.95 Piney Grove Baptist Church v. Goss, 565 S.E.2d 569 (Ga. App. 2002).

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

ajax-loader-largecaret-downcloseHamburger Menuicon_amazonApple PodcastsBio Iconicon_cards_grid_caretChild Abuse Reporting Laws by State IconChurchSalary Iconicon_facebookGoogle Podcastsicon_instagramLegal Library IconLegal Library Iconicon_linkedinLock IconMegaphone IconOnline Learning IconPodcast IconRecent Legal Developments IconRecommended Reading IconRSS IconSubmiticon_select-arrowSpotify IconAlaska State MapAlabama State MapArkansas State MapArizona State MapCalifornia State MapColorado State MapConnecticut State MapWashington DC State MapDelaware State MapFederal MapFlorida State MapGeorgia State MapHawaii State MapIowa State MapIdaho State MapIllinois State MapIndiana State MapKansas State MapKentucky State MapLouisiana State MapMassachusetts State MapMaryland State MapMaine State MapMichigan State MapMinnesota State MapMissouri State MapMississippi State MapMontana State MapMulti State MapNorth Carolina State MapNorth Dakota State MapNebraska State MapNew Hampshire State MapNew Jersey State MapNew Mexico IconNevada State MapNew York State MapOhio State MapOklahoma State MapOregon State MapPennsylvania State MapRhode Island State MapSouth Carolina State MapSouth Dakota State MapTennessee State MapTexas State MapUtah State MapVirginia State MapVermont State MapWashington State MapWisconsin State MapWest Virginia State MapWyoming State IconShopping Cart IconTax Calendar Iconicon_twitteryoutubepauseplay