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Court Re-Evaluates What Entities are Entitled to Charitable Immunity


You may be precluded from being a lawsuit for personal injuries if the entity is shielded by the New Jersey’s Charitable Immunity Act. There are four requirements that must be met for an organization to assert the Charitable Immunity Act. First, the organization must be a non-profit. Second, the organization must be organized exclusively for religious, educational or charitable purposes. Third, the organization must have been advancing their purpose at the time of the incident giving rise to the claim. Fourth, the person suffering the injury must have been a beneficiary of the organizations charitable, educational or religious works.

Organizations that have been found to be covered by charitable immunity include churches, religious institutions, group homes for disabled individuals, and public as well as private non-profit schools. Until recently, YMCA organizations have been found to be protected by the Charitable Immunity Act. However, a recent trial court decision reconsidered whether the YMCA is protected by the Charitable Immunity Act under its current operations.

In determining whether the YMCA at the center of the Essex County lawsuit is entitled to continued protection under the Charitable Immunity Act, the court looked to the present-day operation of the YMCA facility, rather than its mission at its foundation. The court found that, while charitable works may have been the sole focus of the YMCA for many years, beginning with its formation, the present day activities of the organization are more akin to a private fitness facility, daycare, youth camp, and rental hall. The court’s determination was based largely on the source of the YMCA’s revenue. While the YMCA still accepts grants and charitable contributions, more than 90% of its revenue came from fees charged for services.

Although the status of YMCA’s with respect to the Charitable Immunity Act is far from settled, the decision of the Essex County trial court demonstrates the importance of continuing to ensure the law is being properly applied to the facts presented by each case. At Levinson Axelrod, our thoroughness and attention to detail ensures that our clients receive the compensation they deserve whenever possible.

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