Has Your Church Been Sued? Legal Defenses to Liability for Churches

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  2. Has Your Church Been Sued? Legal Defenses to Liability for Churches
Church & Nonprofit

If your church has been served with a lawsuit, there are a number of legal defenses that may be raised to defend against the suit. These legal defenses are categorized as either negative defenses, where a legal claim may be defeated by disproving key elements of the case, or as affirmative defenses, where the underlying cause of the claim may be true but the defendant is not responsible.

Common negative defenses

Contributory negligence. If the injured party has contributed in some way to his or her injury, then the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover may be significantly reduced or eliminated altogether.

Comparative negligence. Liability for an injury may be divided among several parties if the court finds that more than one party is responsible for the injury.

Assumption of risk. If a plaintiff is injured while engaging in a dangerous activity, a court could find that the plaintiff is partially or wholly responsible for their injury by assuming the risks of participating in that activity.

Limitation of liability clauses. Limitation of liability clauses in contracts protect one party from liability in case the other party is injured.

Superseding cause. When a separate event causes the injury, the defendant cannot be found liable.

Act of God. When an injury is caused by an “act of God” — such as a windstorm or other natural disaster — a defendant cannot be found liable.

Common affirmative defenses

Comparative negligence. A court may split liability among the parties if it finds that both are liable to some degree for an injury.

Harm is limited. There is no case unless a plaintiff can prove that he or she was harmed. And, if that harm could have been cured by a plaintiff’s actions but no action was taken, the defendant is not responsible for the plaintiff failing to act.

Intervening cause. A defendant is not liable for any injury that is made worse by another separate event that occurred after the first injury.

When a church, ministry, or other nonprofit organization in Arizona needs advice about the liability of its Directors, Board Members, or other volunteers, Provident Law’s church and nonprofit attorneys are here to help. We recognize how essential these organizations are to society, and we provide broad transactional and general counsel services to keep them running smoothly. Contact us to learn more.

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