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Church negligence for no background checks?

Philadelphia, PA |

Church X runs a nursery for its members. However, it does not screen nursery volunteers with a background check. John Doe, a convicted sex offender, volunteers for the nursery and abuses a child. A background check would have revealed John Doe's criminal record.

Assuming the facts above are incontrovertible in a court of law, what reasonable criminal and civil charges could be brought against Church X?

Attorney Answers 4

  1. On the limited facts posited I see no criminal liability but likely civil liability. The child-victim's parents need to be in contact with a qualified civil litigation lawyer to determine what legal action may be available.

  2. Not sure if any criminal charges unless there is a specific statute requiring them to run a background check and act accordingly. I'd be surprised if such a criminal statute was in place, but you never know. There may be able to be a charge if they knew of the background and ignored it. Certainly a civil case though. Seek out a civil attorney first and talk about the criminal matter as well

  3. There would not be a basis for criminal charges based on the facts you present as they would certainly establish negligent conduct required for civil liability, but not the higher standard of recklessness necessary for possible criminal responsibility. You should retain an experienced civil lawyer experienced in injury cases.

  4. You may very well have multiple claims against the church. The church runs the nursery as a part of its business affairs, regardless of whether they are charitable in nature. It had a duty to run a criminal background check, especially since they were on notice that churches are a nest for sexual abuse of children - in light of the recent unfortunate revelations. The church may be liable for Negligent Supervision and Breach of Fiduciary Duty, among other claims. The church has a fiduciary duty on both clergy-parishioner and nurse-patient grounds and it breached that duty. You should set up an appointment at a law firm to discuss your case with a qualified attorney. Hope this helps.
    Irena Shiloh, Esq.

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