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Law School Case Brief

Abernathy v. Sisters of St. Mary's - 446 S.W.2d 599 (Mo. 1969)

Rule:

There are persuasive reasons for abandoning the doctrine of charitable immunity. Two of these are: (1) that neither those who organize or support charitable institutions nor the courts have the authority to put charities beyond the pale of the law applicable to all; (2) the protection of life and limb by organized society is of greater importance to mankind then any species of charity.

Facts:

Plaintiff filed a personal injury action for damages against defendant nonprofit charitable hospital. The trial court held that charitable institutions were immune from vicarious liability. On appeal, plaintiff urged the court to abolish the doctrine of charitable immunity adopted in Adams v. University Hospital, 99 S.W. 453 (Mo.App. 1907).

Issue:

Does the doctrine of charitable immunity apply in plaintiff’s negligence suit against defendant nonprofit charitable institution?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court reversed summary judgment granted in favor of defendant and abolished the doctrine of charitable immunity, effective from the date of its opinion, holding that it was inconsistent with the common law tradition to wait on the legislature to correct an outmoded rule of case law.

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