Should a "Charitable" Organization be Protected from Lawsuits?
A mentally and physically disabled Northern Virginia man is appealing to the Virginia Supreme Court a Prince William County judge's decision to dismiss his personal-injury case against Didlake, Inc. Juan R. Jimenez, a 25-year-old man disabled since childhood, had alleged in his lawsuit that he was injured while receiving rehabilitative services at Didlake in April 2007. He claimed he suffered a femoral fracture which required surgery when he was moved by Didlake employees. On March 11, 2009, Circuit Court Judge Mary Grace O'Brien dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that Didlake was entitled to full immunity.
Charitable immunity is a common law doctrine abolished by most states. This doctrine provides that a charitable entity cannot be sued by a beneficiary who is injured while in its care.
Jimenez's attorney, Benjamin W. Glass III, a personal-injury lawyer based in Fairfax, VA., says:
"The Charitable Immunity law is a holdover from ancient times when charitable organizations depended on contributions to survive. A $32 million business like Didlake, which gets .02 percent of its revenues from donations, should be fully responsible for its carelessness. The original reason for protecting charities in Virginia no longer exists when you are talking about big business."
Jimenez's mother, Iris N. Figueroa-Jiminez, said:
"When I sent my son to Didlake, I trusted that he would be well cared for, and when he broke his leg I was shocked that they failed to take any responsibility whatsoever.
People who use these kinds of services don't know about the Charitable Immunity laws and that employees have no liability in the event of an accident or other injury to a client."
In the lawsuit, Didlake denied that its employees did anything wrong, denied that it was "big business" and denied that Juan Jimenez was injured while in its care. Those issues were not litigated due to the Court's ruling that Didlake was entitled to the protection of the charitable immnunity doctrine.
The official trial court ruling on the Didlake lawsuit is here.
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