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Book v. Aguth Achim Anchai of Freehold

Decided: June 28, 1968.

MARGARET H. BOOK AND EDWIN A. BOOK, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
AGUTH ACHIM ANCHAI OF FREEHOLD, NEW JERSEY, A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



Conford, Collester and Labrecque. The opinion of the court was delivered by Collester, J.A.D.

Collester

Plaintiffs appeal from an order granting defendant's motion for summary judgment on the ground that plaintiffs' personal injury negligence action was barred by the immunity granted the defendant under N.J.S. 2 A:53 A -7.

The facts are not in dispute. Plaintiff Margaret Book, a resident of Farmingdale, was a regular attendant during 1965 of the weekly Wednesday night bingo games operated by defendant Aguth Achim Anchai, a Jewish synagogue, at its premises in Freehold. Mrs. Book was not a member of defendant's congregation. She was a member of the Catholic faith and went to the synagogue for the sole purpose of playing bingo. On Wednesday evening, September 1, 1965, Mrs. Book paid her $1 admission charge at the synagogue (for which she received a "double" bingo card), purchased five "extra" cards, seated herself at one of the tables and thereafter participated in the bingo games. Toward the end of the evening the table at which she was seated collapsed and injured her knee.

Mrs. Book brought suit against defendant, in which her husband joined per quod, alleging that the injury she sustained was caused by defendant's negligence. Defendant answered denying negligence, alleged that Mrs. Book was guilty of contributory negligence and asserted the defense of charitable immunity. Defendant then moved for the entry of a summary judgment contending that under its statutory charitable immunity (N.J.S. 2 A:53 A -7) it was entitled to a dismissal of plaintiffs' action as a matter of law.

It was conceded that the proceeds of the bingo games, after the deduction of expenses, were used by defendant for general religious and charitable purposes. The trial court concluded that Mrs. Book was a "beneficiary" within the meaning of the statute and that since the proceeds of the games were devoted to charitable purposes defendant was entitled to a summary judgment dismissing plaintiffs' action. This appeal followed.

The pertinent parts of the charitable immunity statute (N.J.S. 2 A:53 A -7) are as follows:

"No nonprofit corporation, society or association organized exclusively for religious, charitable, educational 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 * * *."

N.J.S. 2 A:53 A -10 provides:

"This act shall be deemed to be remedial and shall be liberally construed so as to afford immunity to the said corporations, societies and associations from liability as provided herein in furtherance of the public policy for the protection of nonprofit corporations, societies and associations organized for religious, charitable, educational or hospital purposes."

The sole issue in this case is whether Mrs. Book was "a beneficiary, to whatever degree, of the works" of the synagogue, in which event the defendant is immune from this action, or whether she was "unconcerned in and unrelated to and outside the benefactions" of the synagogue, in which event the defendant would be responsible to plaintiffs on ordinary principles of negligence. Anasiewicz v. Sacred Heart

Church, 74 N.J. Super. 532, 534-35 (App. Div. 1962), certification ...


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