J. v. Victory Tabernacle Baptist Church

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The plaintiff, the mother of 10-year-old girl, sued the defendant, the Tabernacle Baptist Church, alleging that her daughter had been repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted by an employee of the church. The plaintiff alleged that the church knew or should have known that its employee had recently been convicted of aggravated sexual assault on a young girl, was currently on probation for this offense, and that a condition of his probation was that he not be involved with children. In spite of this fact, the church hired the offending employee and entrusted him with duties that encouraged him to interact freely with children, gave him the keys to lock and unlock all of the church doors, and failed to supervise him. As a result, the plaintiff’s daughter was raped by the employee multiple times, on and off of church grounds. The trial court dismissed the action, concluding that, as a charitable organization, the church was immune from tort liability under the doctrine of charitable immunity. The Virginia Supreme Court reversed and remanded. The question before the court was whether the church, as a charitable institution, was immune from prosecution for torts under the charitable immunity doctrine. Answering in the negative, the Court cited cases in which Virginia courts held charitable hospitals liable for negligent hiring and concluded that there was no basis for distinguishing those cases from the case before it. Thus, the Court held that the church could be held liable for negligently hiring an employee.



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