The New Jersey Appellate Division recently considered the appeal of a woman who slipped and fell on icy steps at a museum entrance, injuring her back. The trial court had dismissed her lawsuit against the museum, based on the Charitable Immunity Act. The museum is a nonprofit association organized exclusively for charitable, artistic, scientific, educational, historical and cultural purposes. On the day of the accident, the museum was closed to the public. The plaintiff had been directed by her work supervisor to go to the museum to attend an educational panel discussion organized by her employer, a non-profit organization which had rented the premises for the event. She sought damages due to the negligence of the museum in failing to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition. She also argued that the museum was not engaged in any charitable purpose at the time because it had rented the facility to her employer in order to generate income. The trial judge disagreed.
The Appellate Division reversed the trial court decision, finding that the plaintiff was not a beneficiary of the museum’s charitable endeavors because she was required to be there by her employer, and therefore was not a direct recipient of the museum’s good works. Skilled attorneys know that sometimes a judge will get it wrong and that it is worth appealing that decision so that the plaintiff may have her day in court and the opportunity to be compensated for her injuries.