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Limited Civil Liability for Churches in Indiana

In Indiana, religious organizations generally enjoy limited premises liability for incidents that result in harm to another. As Indiana is a state with strong religious roots, it stands to reason that Indiana would offer some degree of advantage to such organizations. However, most individuals are not aware that, when they attend church, the church that they are attending enjoys certain legal protections for on-premises harm that might befall them.

Under Indiana law, the responsibilities of nonprofit religious organizations to individuals entering onto the organizations’ property can be divided into three categories:

  • First, if the individual has the permission of the church/organization to be on the property, and the property is primarily used for religious worship, then the church need only warn individuals of hidden dangers on the property that the church is actually aware of or avoid intentionally harming the person. The church, or religious organization, has no other responsibility or duty of care to individuals on its property.
  • Second, the church or religious organization’s responsibility declines further if the person enters the property without the organization’s permission. In that instance, the nonprofit religious organization need only refrain from intentionally harming the person.
  • Lastly, under Indiana Code 34-31-7, this general limitation on liability is reduced if the church is offering childcare services for a fee. However, this limitation on liability is only slightly reduced. The law only requires the nonprofit religious organization: (a) warn the customer or child of hidden changes actually known to the organization, (b) refrain from intentionally harming the customer or child, and (c) inspect the premises for hazards and correct them in a “reasonable period of time” after discovering the hazard.

While this law certainly affords nonprofit religious organizations, or churches, certain legal protections, it does not absolve them of all liability.

If you have a legal question or concern, contact the attorneys of Keffer Hirschauer LLP today. We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individual case. Act now and contact us today at (317) 857-0160.