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This One’s For The Students (NJ)

May 16, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">The Supreme Court of New Jersey in <a href="https://njcourts.gov/attorneys/assets/opinions/supreme/a_63_17.pdf?c=OSn"><em>Green v. Monmouth University</em></a> recently had to decide whether a Martina McBride concert hosted by Monmouth University at its Multipurpose Activity Center was a promotion of the University’s educational purpose sufficient for it to be immune from plaintiff’s personal injury action which arose from her fall down during the concert due to a dangerous condition.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The facts in <em>Green</em> are pretty straightforward.  The University contracted with an agent to facilitate music concerts at the University.  The agent was a for-profit entity.  Pursuant to the contract, the agent had the rights to proceeds derived from ticket sales.  In exchange, the University received a $10,000 rental fee for the use of its facility in addition to a small fee charged per ticket.  The University maintained that the revenues it derived from the concert largely went to paying the costs associated with putting the concert on.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">In New Jersey, certain entities are immune from civil litigation pursuant to the Charitable Immunity Act.  Pursuant to the Act, an entity qualifies for charitable immunity when it (1) was formed for nonprofit purposes; (2) is organized exclusively for religious, charitable or educational purposes; and (3) was promoting such objectives and purposes at the time of the injury to plaintiff who was then a beneficiary of the charitable works.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">There was no dispute that the University met the criteria of the first two prongs of the test, but the parties differed on whether the University was promoting an educational purpose.  The Supreme Court explained that the third prong involves an inquiry as to whether the organization pleading immunity was engaged in the performance of the objectives it was organized to advance.  The Supreme Court relied on prior precedent holding that recreational activities qualify as educational for purposes of Charitable Immunity.  It also relied on the University’s charter which states that the University was established to promote education and, among other associated things, provide concerts open to the public “to advance the cause of education and wholesome recreation.”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">This case is a good illustration of how courts may liberally enforce the Charitable Immunity Act, an Act that was initially established to protect charitable trust funds but now extends to for-profit concerts hosted by a University.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thank you to Michael Noblett for his contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="mailto:chayes@wcmlaw.com">Colleen E. Hayes</a> with any questions.</p>

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