Appeal on behalf of disabled adult filed in the Virginia Supreme Court

According to the Court opinion:

This case arises out of a femoral shaft fracture Plaintiff, Juan R. Jiminez, sustained while in the care of Defendant, Didlake, Inc. Plaintiff is 25 years of age and has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and mental retardation. Defendant is a non-stock corporation, serving to educate and foster the development of programs for mentally retarded, multiply handicapped, and emotionally disturbed persons. Plaintiff attended Defendant's day progran activities, and on April 13, 2007, when placing Plaintiff back in his wheelchair after changing him, two Didlake employees heard Plaintiff verbalize a noise of discomfort. The Didlake staff contacted Plaintiff's mother, who took Plaintiff to the Prince William Hospital Emergency Room. Plaintiff was diagnosed with a right femoral shaft fracture.

On May 7, 2008, Iris N. Figueroa-Jiminez and Awildina Figueroa, as co-legal guardians and next friends of Juan R. Jiminez, filed this suit against Didlake, alleging Defendant responsible for the injuries and damages incurred by Plaintiff under the doctrine of respondeat superior. On 2009, Defendant filed a Plea in Bar to Plaintiff's Complaint on the grounds that Didlake Inc. was shielded from any liability under the doctrine of charitable immunity. The Court heard argument of the parties on February 17, 2009.

The question presented in this case is whether Defendant is a charitable organization that would enjoy the bar of charitable immunity. As disctssed above, three elements are necessary to establish an entity as a charitable organization that qualifies for charitable immunity. Virginia courts apply a two-part test, considering the first two elements:

(1) Whether the organization's articles of incorporation have a charitable or eleemosynary purpose; and,

(2) Whether the organization operates consistently with that purpose

Davidson v. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 817 F. Supp. 611, 613 (E.D. Va. 1993). The final element a defendant must establish to enjoy the bar of charitable immunity is that the tort claimant was a beneficiary of the charitable institution at the time of the alleged incident See Straley, 243 Va. at 33. This last element was not in dispute, as the stipulated facts between the parties agreed that Plaintiff was in the care of Defendant at the time of the incident, and the services were paid for by Medicaid and Defendant itself.

The court ruled:

Considering the totality of the relevant facts and circumstances, the Court finds that Defendant satisfies the two-prong test granting it charitable immunity. Its Articles of Incorporation explicitly state that it is "organized for eleemosynary or charitable purposes only and not for pecuniary profit" As such, as previously discussed, Plaintiff had a rebuttable presumption to overcome that it did not operate consistently with that objective. However, in light of the facts that its officers and directors receive no compensation from its profits, that Defendant gives approximately $17.3 million a year to disabled adults, and the intrinsically charitable nature of its operation in caring for and assisting the employment of handicapped adults, Plaintiff did not overcome the rebuttable presumption that Defendant did not operate in accord with its charitable purpose. As such, its charitable funds are protected from tort claims under the doctrine of charitable immunity.

Benjamin W. Glass, III is counsel for the Plaintiff in this case.