NJ Plaintiff Injured During Tour of YMCA Is Barred From Suit

In a recent decision, the Appellate Court upheld summary judgment based upon New Jersey’s Charitable Immunity Act.  In Sapia v. Hunterdon County YMCA, Sapia’s parents, who do not speak English, were interested in obtaining a membership to the local YMCA.  Sapia accompanied her parents to the facility for a tour and acted as a translator on their behalf.  During the tour, Sapia slipped and fell on water near a locker room, injured herself and eventually brought a negligence suit against the YMCA.

The YMCA filed a motion for summary judgment based on New Jersey’s Charitable Immunity Act.  Under the statute, a charitable organization is immune from suit if the plaintiff is a beneficiary of the organization and the organization was engaged in its charitable works at the time when the tortious conduct occurred.  The court granted summary judgment to the YMCA and Sapia filed an appeal.  In her appeal, she argued that she was not a beneficiary of the YMCA since she was not interested in their membership services and that the YMCA was not engaged in the performance of its charitable objectives at the time of her fall.

The Appellate Court upheld the trial court’s decision, finding that Sapia was a beneficiary of the YMCA at the time of her accident.  Under the statute, the term “beneficiary” is to be broadly interpreted.  In aiding her parents during their tour, Sapia was educated regarding the nature of available services offered by and the proposed goals of the YMCA.  Accordingly, she was a beneficiary under the terms of the statue.  Moreover, the court found that the YMCA was advancing its charitable purposes at the time of the accident.  Specifically, Sapia was injured while walking a guided tour of the facility where the YMCA conducts it activities and functions.  The court found that this particular function bore a substantial and direct relationship to the YMCA’s general purpose.

Thanks to Heather Aquino for her contribution to this post.  For more information, please contact nbrown@wcmlaw.com.