INJURY CLAIMS BY MEMBERS – HAUNTED STAIRS

Lifetime members of the church, the people least expected, will sometimes sue their church due to an injury.  The church with adequate insurance will, out of sympathy, often encourage it.

Lifetime members usually know every nook, cranny and quirk of the church building.  Older church buildings are often not upgraded to reflect changing safety standards unless a remodeling program is incidentally undertaken.  As a result, creaking stair cases with no rails are not uncommon in areas “behind the stage” at baptismal facilities, choir lofts, computer controls, and sound and lighting controls.  In Thompson v Evergreen Baptist Church, Slip. Op. (NC App. 2016), the plaintiff choir member fell off the stair case to the choir loft that lacked rails.  The trial court granted summary judgment for the church and the appellate court affirmed.

While churches should as funds permit inspect their premises to see if affordable safety improvements should be performed, it does not automatically follow that a long time church member, and especially a member with inside knowledge of the non-public areas or areas that represent a risk, will be able to press a claim successfully.  Indeed, open and obvious risks and risks known to the long time member with a long history of behind the scenes access often will not support a claim.

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