On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, MON-L-2253-98.
Before Judges Skillman, Conley and Lesemann.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Skillman, P.J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 31, 2000
Plaintiff was a member of the congregation of defendant Second Baptist Church of Long Branch. On December 22, 1996, a friend drove plaintiff to the church to attend Sunday morning services. Plaintiff got out of the car carrying a Bible and began walking along a sidewalk abutting the church. As she neared the front of the church, plaintiff tripped on a raised metal grate and fell, suffering a knee injury.
Plaintiff brought this personal injury action against the church and City of Long Branch. After the completion of discovery, the church moved for summary judgment, contending that plaintiffs' claim was barred by the Charitable Immunity Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-7 to -11.
The trial court granted the church's motion, stating in a brief oral opinion:
Plaintiff accepts that the movant, the Second Baptist Church, is a nonprofit organization organized exclusively for religious purposes. She contends, however, that when the accident occurred she was not a beneficiary of the works of the charity apparently because she had not yet entered the church.
It is, however, undisputed that she was in fact on her way to church when she tripped and fell on the sidewalk. . . .
. . . She was for all intents and purposes a beneficiary of the religious experience at the Second Baptist Church of Long Branch, that is, she was a member of the church and was on her way to a regularly scheduled service when the accident occurred.
It has now been well established that immunity extends to persons injured following their attendance at religious services, . . . sometimes in the parking lot, sometimes on the steps, but in each instance while leaving church.
There's just no logical reason to distinguish such decisions from the factual pattern involved here, . . . where the plaintiff was on her way to church when she fell.
The court subsequently granted a motion for summary judgment filed by the City of Long Branch.
Plaintiff appeals solely from the summary judgment granted to the church. We conclude that the trial court correctly held that the Charitable Immunity ...