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New York Court Discusses Civil Immunity for Non-Profit Organizations

Non-profit organizations regularly hold functions for members and patrons. People attending such events typically expect them to be safe. Unfortunately, though, it is not uncommon for incidents to occur during non-profit social events, and in many instances, they are the result of negligence. While there are laws that protect non-profit organizations from liability, they only apply in certain circumstances, as explained in a recent New York opinion. If you were injured in an accident brought about by another person’s negligence, it would benefit you to meet with a Syracuse personal injury lawyer to evaluate your options for seeking damages.

Factual Background and Procedural History

It is alleged that the plaintiff attended a summit organized by the defendant academy at the defendant church. During the event, one man threw a bag to another; the man catching the bag fell backward into the plaintiff, causing him to fall and sustain injuries. The plaintiff and his wife filed a lawsuit seeking damages against various defendants, including the president of the defendant academy and the defendant church.

Reportedly, the president of the defendant academy moved for summary judgment, claiming immunity under Not-for-Profit Corporation Law § 720-a. The defendant church also moved for summary judgment, arguing it couldn’t be held liable for the actions of the two men as they were unforeseeable and spontaneous. The plaintiffs also sought partial summary judgment on liability against the man who fell into him and dismissal of the defendants’ affirmative defenses. Additionally, the defendant church and the defendant man requested bifurcation of the trial into liability and damages phases.

Civil Immunity for Non-Profits

The court denied the defendant academy president’s motion for summary judgment, finding that he failed to establish immunity under Not-for-Profit Corporation Law § 720-a, as the plaintiffs’ claims weren’t solely based on his conduct as an officer.

Further, the court denied the defendant church’s motion for summary judgment because it found that factual disputes existed regarding the defendant church’s control over the event and the foreseeability of the incident. The court emphasized that issues of negligence, foreseeability, and proximate cause are typically left for the jury to decide.

The court denied the plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability against the defendant man and dismissal of the defendants’ affirmative defenses, as factual questions remained regarding the defendant man’s conduct leading up to the accident.

Finally, the court granted the defendants’ motion for bifurcation, with the damages phase of the trial to follow immediately after the liability phase before the same jury.

Meet with an Experienced Syracuse Personal Injury Attorney

Accidents happen, but when they are the result of carelessness, there may be grounds for pursuing personal injury claims against the responsible parties. If you were hurt by someone else’s recklessness, you should meet with an attorney to discuss what claims you may be able to pursue. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers, our experienced Syracuse personal injury attorneys can assess your harm and help you pursue any available compensation. You can reach us via our form online or by calling us at 833-247-8427 to arrange a conference.

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