In a recent Appellate Division decision, the court considered the claim of an auto accident victim who had caught a ride with a fellow member of a non-profit charitable arts organization. The organization arranged for percussion instrument performances and competitions for its members. It would inform the members of the time, date and location of rehearsals and performances and provided directions.
Members were responsible for their own transportation. The organization did not earn any income from the performances. It was based in New Jersey.
The accident occurred in Pennsylvania when the driver lost control of the car and hit a utility pole, injuring the plaintiff. The victim sued the organization, claiming that the driver of the car he rode in was an agent of the organization. He claimed that the organization was negligent because the director knew that the driver was only 17, had a probationary license and had too many passengers in the car.
The court found that the New Jersey Charitable Immunity Act protected the organization from liability and that the driver was not an agent of the organization. The court also found that there was no evidence that the organization was in any way involved in the plaintiff’s efforts to find a ride on the day of the accident.
A good plaintiff’s attorney will identify all possible defendants to maximize the recovery for his/her client. However, there are limits, such as in this case where the arts organization had charitable immunity from suit.