SW Legal Educational Publishing

Members May Sue Unincorporated Associations in Tort, in Indiana
Description Indiana high court reversed old rule in Indiana that members of an unincorporated association may not sue their association in tort. Such suits may be brought under rules of comparative fault, but there is no vicarious liability for association members and trustees.
Topic Torts
Key Words Unincorporated Associations, Negligence
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Hanson was injured when she fell in the icy parking lot of her church. She sued the church and its trustees for negligence in failing to properly maintain the parking lot. Trial court held for defendants "applying the common law rule that a member of an unincorporated association cannot sue the association for the negligence of another member." Hanson appealed.
Decision Reversed. The rules in the states are mixed on this issue, but Indiana now joins the states that allow suit by members. "We abolish the 'ancient precept' which until now precluded members of unincorporated associations from suing their associations for tortious conduct, and we hold that such suits shall now be allowed, subject to the applicable principles of comparative fault...." "As a result, while a member may now sue an unincorporated association in tort, she may only reach the association's assets. If she wishes to reach the assets of any individual, she must name that individual as a party and prove that individual's fault, as always. As a result, individual members, including officers and trustees, may not be held vicariously liable for a judgment against the association."
Citation Hanson v. Saint Luke's United Methodist Church, --N.E.2d-- (1998 WL 904830, Sup. Ct., Ind.)
704 N.E.2d 1020 (Sup. Ct., Ind., 1998)

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