SW Legal studies in Business

Charitable Immunity Doctrine Does Not Apply to Businesses Dealing with Charity
Description Virginia high court held that a catering business that donated refreshments to a religious organization, could not invoke the charitable immunity doctrine when two children suffered burns from hot beverages under the control of the caterer at the site of a religious ceremony.
Topic Torts
Key Words Personal Injury; Negligence; Charitable Immunity
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Two children, aged four and nine, went with their parents to a Hindu religious ceremony conducted by an organization known as Mandir. While the children were in a room next to the room in which the ceremony was being performed, they were scalded by hot tea that spilled from an overturned urn used by employees of Mehak, the caterer. Mehak had agreed to provide the refreshments as a gift to Mandir. The children's parents sued Mehak for negligence for their injuries. The trial court held for the caterer on the basis of charitable immunity. The parents appealed.
Decision

Reversed. The doctrine of charitable immunity precludes a charity's beneficiaries from recovering damages from the charity for the negligent acts of its servants or agents if due care was exercised in the hiring and retention of those servants. Hence, the volunteer of a charity is immune from liability for negligence while the volunteer was engaged in the charity's work. The doctrine does not shield the catering business from liability since it was acting directly for a business in the preparation and delivery of a business's charitable donation. That is, the caterer was not Mandir's agent or servant at the time the injury occurred.

Citation Bhatia v. Mehak, Inc., 551 S.E.2d 358 (Sup. Ct., Va., 2001)

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