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What legal action can I take against a nonprofit organization if my loved one is injured or dies during a volunteer mission?

Friday June 28, 2013
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Dear Nancy,

What legal action can I take against a nonprofit organization, or the president of the organization, if my loved one is injured or dies during a volunteer mission?


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Sharon,

Nonprofit organizations are formed for a purpose other than to make a profit. No income from the organization is given to its board of directors, members or officers. Nonprofit organizations can include churches, hospitals, professional associations and museums.

Nonprofit organizations are created under state law and therefore the benefits provided nonprofit organizations could vary. Some states provide them with tort immunity, meaning that if certain conditions are met, there is no liability for specified injuries or a death of another. In other states, one can sue a not-for-profit entity, but there is a limit on the amount of damages that can be awarded (Legal Information Institute, Non-Profit Organizations: An Overview,1).

You need to consult with a nurse attorney or attorney in your state who practices in the area of personal injury or business law to determine if the state provided any tort immunity to the organization you are referring to. Even if tort immunity existed, it may not apply in some situations because, as examples, the organization did not declare itself as nonprofit at its creation or other prerequisites for tort immunity were not met.


Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.