Church Director Liability Under Arizona’s Volunteer Protection Statute

By April 3, 2020 Church
Church Director Liability Under Arizona's Volunteer Protection Statute

When a church director (typically a director is someone responsible for governing the church, such as a board of elders or other church board) is a volunteer, the law of Arizona has a provision to protect them from personal liability in lawsuits, whether a lawsuit is filed for valid or for invalid reasons. The law is Arizona’s Volunteer Protection Statute.

Found in Arizona Revised Statute section 12-982, the Volunteer Protection Statute grants to volunteers who offer their services to either nonprofits, hospitals, or governmental agencies a level of immunity from civil liability that might arise due to action or inaction that results in some form of injury—whether physical or monetary. To come within the protections of the law, a certain set of conditions be met.

First, the volunteer—in this case, the church director—must have been acting within the scope of the role they were fulfilling. This means that whatever act or negligence that is alleged by the person or persons filing the lawsuit must be one that was performed—or that should have been performed—in the defendant’s capacity as volunteer church director.

Second, the volunteer director must have been acting in good faith when they either took action or refrained from doing so. This means that they must have acted in accordance with their earnest understanding of what was expected of them by the official functions of their role.

It must be noted, however, that these acts (or acts of omission) cannot have been the result of any willful, wanton, or grossly negligent conduct. A person acting legitimately in an official volunteer function would not behave in such a way in good faith.

Moreover, there are repercussions for the church in triggering the Volunteer Protection Statute. If the accused volunteer director can show that the alleged act or omission was one of good faith performed in the course of their official function, then liability falls on the church and the church itself becomes the party that will pay damages in the case.

When a church, ministry, or other nonprofit organization in Arizona needs advice about the liability of its Directors, Board Members, or other volunteers, Provident Law’s church and nonprofit attorneys are here to help. We recognize how essential these organizations are to society, and we provide broad transactional and general counsel services to keep them running smoothly. Contact us to learn more.