A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Charitable Immunity Broadly Applied to Bar Personal Injury Claim of Plaintiff

By on December 12, 2014 in Blog with 0 Comments

The law is well settled that a beneficiary of charitable works who is injured while attending an immunized event is barred from recovering for a bodily injury negligence claim against the charitable organization. However, what about when the “beneficiary” is dropped off at a church by her daughter to attend an event and the daughter is injured? Is that church protected under the Charitable Immunity Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-7, for the daughter’s injury? That is the question that the Appellate Division decided in Pollard v. Jerusalem Baptist Church, 2014 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2834 (App. Div. Dec. 8, 2014).

Plaintiff Elvina Pollard was injured when she fell down the stairs at the Jerusalem Baptist Church. At the time of her accident, the Church was hosting an usher’s council meeting. While she was not attending the meeting, the plaintiff dropped her mother off to attend the meeting. The plaintiff slipped and fell down the Church’s stairs when she returned to pick up her mother.

The Church claimed it was immune from liability based upon the Charitable Immunity Act. Under the Act, the Church would be immune if (1) the entity was formed for non-profit purposes; (2) it is organized exclusively for religious, charitable, or educational purposes, and (3) it was promoting such objectives and purposes at the time of the injury to the plaintiff, who was then a beneficiary, to whatever degree, of its charitable works.

Plaintiff disputed the last factor as to whether she was a beneficiary of the Church’s religious or charitable work. The appeals court noted that one is considered to be a beneficiary if she receives, in some way, a benefit from the functioning of the entity at the time of the accident. Prior case law has bestowed beneficiary status upon the individual if, for example, they were accompanying a child or others to an immunized activity, even if they do not intend to participate in that activity. Further, beneficiary status does not depend upon whether the claimant personally received a benefit from the works of the charity but, rather, whether the institution was engaged in the performance of its charitable objectives when the injury occurred.

The Appellate Division pointed out that the Act has been liberally interpreted to provide immunity. Thus, the court found that plaintiff’s presence on the premises was sufficient to bestow beneficiary status upon her. Her presence was clearly incident to the accomplishment of her objectives, ensuring her mother could participate in the ushers’ council meeting, as well as spending time with her mother. Further, the Church was engaged in a religious activity at the time of the accident. Consequently, the Appellate Division found the Church to be immune from liability for the plaintiff’s injuries suffered in the accident and upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit.


About the Author

About the Author:

Ms. Ramos is an Executive Committee Member and Co-Chair of the Litigation Department at Capehart Scatchard, P.A. located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She is an experienced litigator with over 30 years experience handling diverse matters. Practice areas include tort defense, business litigation, estate litigation, tort claims and civil rights defense, construction litigation, insurance coverage, employment litigation, shareholder disputes, and general litigation.

For the years 2020-2023, Ms. Ramos was selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© in the practice area of Litigation - Insurance. The attorneys on this list are selected based upon the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area. A complete description of The Best Lawyers in America© methodology can be viewed via their website at: https://www.bestlawyers.com/methodology.

In 2021, Capehart Scatchard and Ms. Ramos received the “Best Law Firm” ranking in the area of Litigation – Insurance (Metro, Tier 3) published by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®. Law firms included on the list are recognized for professional excellence with consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have at least one attorney who has been included in the current edition of Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top five percent of practicing lawyers in the United States. Betsy Ramos (Litigation – Insurance) was recognized for this prestigious award in the 2021 edition. For a description of the “Best Law Firm” selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

“Best Law Firms” is published by Best Lawyers in partnership with U.S. News & World Report. For a description of the selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

*No aspect of this advertisement has been submitted to or approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.


Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.