Tort Law

Charitable Immunity

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses Charitable Immunity Cases

Brien Roche

This page is a compilation of cases dealing with the topic of charitable immunity and other topics dealing with personal injury. For more information on charitable immunity see the pages on Wikipedia.

Charitable Immunity-Statutes

See Va. Code § 8.01 for a variety of statutes establishing immunity.

Charitable Immunity-Cases

2008 UVA Health Services Foundation v. Morris, 275 Va. 319, 657 S.E.2d 512.

Health Services Foundation associated with university’s medical center is not itself a hospital and is not otherwise entitled to common law immunity. The doctrine of charitable immunity in Virginia is limited. A charitable institution is immune from liability to beneficiaries for acts of ordinary negligence but may be liable for ordinary negligence in the selection and retention of its employees. To establish charitable immunity the institution must show that its articles of incorporation have a charitable purpose and that the organization is in fact operated consistent with that purpose. The Court in this case considered 10 different issues to determine whether it operates with a charitable purpose.

2005 Ola v. YMCA of S. Hampton Rds., Inc., 270 Va. 550, 621 S.E.2d 70.

Minor plaintiff was abducted and sexually assaulted in a bathroom while using the YMCA facility, which is a membership based organization. Trial court properly concluded that defendant was a charitable organization operating in accordance with a charitable purpose and that the minor plaintiff was a beneficiary.

2004 Cowan v. Hospice Support Care, Inc., 268 Va. 482, 603 S.E.2d 916.

Wrongful death action asserted on behalf of decedent who had been patient at hospice alleging improper care. Claims were for negligence, gross negligence, and willful and wanton misconduct. Charity is immune from liability to its beneficiaries for negligence caused by acts or omissions of its agents provided the charity has exercised due care in their selection and retention. This immunity does not extend to claims made by persons who have no beneficial relationship but are mere invitees or strangers. Court defines again the distinction between negligence, gross negligence, and willful and wanton conduct and concludes that immunity only applies to claims for simple negligence.

2001 Bhatia v. Mehak, Inc., 262 Va. 544, 551 S.E.2d 358.

Minors were scalded by hot tea that was spilled on them during religious ceremony that was being catered. In this instance, owners of catering business are acting directly for the business in preparing and delivering charitable donations to religious organization. Charitable immunity precludes charity’s beneficiaries from recovering damages from the charity for negligent acts of its servants or agents if due care was exercised in the hiring and retention of those servants. In this case, neither catering business nor owner were acting as agents or servants of religious organization by preparing and serving food and beverages without compensation nor were the business or owners directly performing charitable work and as such, charitable immunity is not applicable.

1999 Mooring ex rel. Mooring v. Virginia Wesleyan Coll., 257 Va. 509, 514 S.E.2d 619.

Mooring at time of injury was beneficiary of charitable effort offered by Boys and Girls Club where he was injured. Braley was professor of Virginia Wesleyan College who was supervising certain students offering recreational programs to beneficiaries such as Mooring. Braley was on the premises supervising one of his students. Although club is entitled to immunity, Braley is not entitled to immunity at the time of this injury because he was not engaged in work of charity at the time of his alleged negligence. His negligence consisted of improperly tending to door where Mooring was injured. In this case, charitable immunity does not apply to Braley.

1998 Bailey v. Lancaster Ruritan Recreation Ctr., 256 Va. 221, 504 S.E.2d 621.

Defendant bears burden of proof as to charitable immunity defense. Charitable institution is immune from liability to its beneficiaries for negligence arising from acts of its servants and agents if due care has been exercised in their selection and retention. To determine whether an organization is charitable court must examine powers and purposes set forth in its charter and manner in which business is conducted. Defendant operated recreation center not for profit. Court concluded that overriding purpose of defendant is to own and operate private recreation center for exclusive use of its members and guests. Defendant does not extend its benefits to indefinite number of persons. Corporate charter does not state “not for profit objective” and indeed on occasion the defendant has shown a profit. Defendant failed to meet its burden of proof as to charitable immunity.

1995 Moore v. Warren, 250 Va. 421, 463 S.E.2d 459.

Volunteer of charity is immune from liability to charity’s beneficiaries for negligence while volunteer was engaged in charity’s work.

1992 Straley v. Urbanna Chamber of Commerce, 243 Va. 32, 413 S.E.2d 47.

Plaintiff injured during course of town festival sponsored by chamber of commerce. Plaintiff not beneficiary of this charitable organization since she was not resident of town and received no pecuniary benefit from funds generated by festival.

1990 Thrasher v. Winand, 239 Va. 338, 389 S.E.2d 699.

Charitable institutions are immune from liability based on claims of negligence asserted by those who accept their charitable benefits. The beneficiaries in this case were those to whom defendant donated its funds. Plaintiff was not a member of that class and therefore defendant not immune.

1989 Infant C. v. Boy Scouts of Am., 239 Va. 572, 391 S.E.2d 322.

Charitable organization is liable to beneficiaries of charity for negligence of its employees if it fails to exercise ordinary care in selection and retention of employees.

1977 Purcell v. Mary Washington Hosp., 217 Va. 776, 232 S.E.2d 902.

Hospital charter lacked any limitations of charitable character. Prices set at certain amount above “break-even” point operated at profit or gain for 20 of 21 years; pursues aggressive and vigorous effort to collect for its services. Error to sustain plea of charitable immunity.

1969 Whitfield v. Whittaker Mem. Hosp., 210 Va. 176, 169 S.E.2d 563.

Court should not have taken judicial notice of defendant hospital being charitable institution.

1963 Roanoke Hosp. Ass’n v. Hayes, 204 Va. 703, 133 S.E.2d 559.

Charitable institution is immune from liability to patients for negligence of its agents if due care has been exercised in their selection and retention. Where plaintiff is not patient but is invitee or stranger having no beneficial relation to charitable institution, recovery for tort may be had if negligence is proved. Plaintiff in this instance was private nurse and therefore was invitee.

1963 Hill v. Memorial Hosp., 204 Va. 501, 132 S.E.2d 411.

Only duty that charitable hospital owes to its patients is exercise of due care in selection and retention of its servants. Charitable hospitals are immune from liability for acts of corporate negligence as well as for negligence of subordinate employees. Discusses reasons for not abolishing charitable immunity.

1959 Memorial Hosp. v. Oakes, 200 Va. 878, 108 S.E.2d 388.

Institution established for charitable purpose, which operates on non-profit basis and whose officers and directors receive no compensation is as matter of law charitable institution. Charitable institution is liable to beneficiaries of charity for negligence of its employees, if it fails to exercise ordinary care in selection and retention of its employees. Abrogation of charitable immunity by judicial decision would be retroactive and give life to tort claims not barred by statute of limitations.

1947 Danville Community Hosp. v. Thompson, 186 Va. 746, 43 S.E.2d 882.

Test of whether hospital is charitable institution is its purpose, i.e., whether it is maintained for profit.

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Charitable Immunity

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