The New Jersey Charitable Immunity Act is designed, in part, to provide qualifying institutions with immunity from civil claims of negligence. The rationale and purpose of charitable immunity is to encourage altruistic activity by limiting the economic impact of litigation on charities.
Whether or not an entity qualifies as a charity under the Act is often fact-sensitive and various factors may be considered. Generally, the organization must show that it was formed as a non-profit entity, is organized for a religious, charitable or educational purpose, and was promoting these objectives at the time of the person's injury. The injured person must also be the beneficiary of the charitable activities.
The Appellate Division recently examined these factors in a case involving a drug treatment facility's attempt to invoke charitable immunity in a slip and fall accident that occurred at its facility. When looking into this issue, the Court analyzed the sources of funding the treatment facility received to determine whether it qualified as a charity. Ultimately, the Court concluded it was not a charity, because the facility did not submit sufficient evidence to substantiate its funding. More specifically, the facility did not specify the fee structure for its services, detail its fund-raising efforts sufficiently, or substantiate its public service efforts to relieve the government of a burden.
So if you are a charity and are faced with a lawsuit, please ensure that you take the time to properly show you are entitled to immunity under the Act. If you have questions about what that might entail, do not hesitate to contact the lawyers at Lavery, Selvaggi, Abromitis and Cohen, P.C.