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Stoolman v. Camden County Council Boy Scouts of America

Decided: October 26, 1962.

ROBERT H. STOOLMAN, AN INFANT BY HIS FATHER AND GUARDIAN AD LITEM, HERBERT L. STOOLMAN AND HERBERT L. STOOLMAN, INDIVIDUALLY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CAMDEN COUNTY COUNCIL BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA, AN ASSOCIATION, DEFENDANT



R. Cooper Brown, J.c.c. (temporarily assigned).

Brown

[77 NJSuper Page 130] This is an action brought by the plaintiff, Robert H. Stoolman, an infant, by his father and guardian ad litem , Herbert L. Stoolman and Herbert L. Stoolman individually, for damages incurred as a result of injuries sustained by Robert H. Stoolman which were allegedly caused by the negligence of the defendant, Camden County Council Boy Scouts of America. The matter comes before the court on motion of the defendant for summary judgment in favor of the defendant against the plaintiff. In its motion the defendant contends that the complaint against it must be dismissed because this suit falls within the purview of N.J.S. 2A:53A-7 et seq. , which

grants to nonprofit corporations organized for religious, charitable, educational or hospital purposes immunity from suits in negligence brought by a beneficiary of said corporation.

The facts, which are not disputed, are that Robert H. Stoolman joined the Cub Scouts on January 18, 1960 and was assigned to Den 51 in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Den 51 is organized under and is a part of the Camden County Council Boy Scouts of America, defendant herein. Defendant is the local chapter of the Boy Scouts of America and is in charge of the promotion, supervision and administration of the boy scout movement within Camden County.

On May 5 and 6, 1961 a boy scout exposition was held in an auditorium called the Ice House (now known as the Delaware Valley Garden), which is located in Cherry Hill Township, Camden County, New Jersey. The exposition was sponsored by the defendant to demonstrate scouting activities to the general public. Every boy scout group in Camden County, which included the cub scout units, was invited to participate in the exposition. The plaintiff's cub pack, Den 51 of Haddonfield, New Jersey, attended the exposition.

Among the exhibits and demonstrations set up in the auditorium in which the exposition took place was a boy scout physical fitness test known as a rope and ladder climb. The plaintiff was injured while taking part in this test, and his suit against the Camden County Council Boy Scouts of America is based on this injury.

N.J.S. 2A:53A-7, effective June 11, 1959, provides as follows:

"No nonprofit corporation, society or association organized exclusively for religious, charitable, education or hospital purposes shall, except as is hereinafter set forth, be liable to respond in damages to any person who shall suffer damage from the negligence of any agent or servant of such corporation, society or association, where such person is a beneficiary, to whatever degree, of the works of such nonprofit corporation, society or association; provided, however, that such immunity from liability shall not extend to any person who shall suffer damage from the negligence of such corporation, society, or association or of its agents or servants where such person is one

unconcerned in and unrelated to and outside of the benefactions of such corporation, society or association; but nothing herein contained shall be deemed to exempt the said agent or servant individually from their liability for any such negligence." (L. 1959, c. 90, ยง 1.)

Whether or not the defendant meets all the requirements of the above-stated statute is the issue to be decided in this opinion.

The first qualification of the statute is that only a nonprofit organization, society or association is within the purview of the immunity granted by this law. The court is satisfied that the defendant has been and is a nonprofit corporation of the State of New Jersey and was so registered, as required by law, on May 23, 1921.

The statute, as passed, requires certain attributes to be possessed by a nonprofit corporation before it can plead the statute as a defense to a suit for negligence. The nonprofit corporation must be organized for religious, educational, charitable or hospital purposes. No issue is raised as to whether or not the defendant has religious or hospital purposes. The issue before this court, therefore, is ...


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