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Tort Liability

Members of an unincorporated association are individually liable for the tortious acts of agents or employees of the association if the tort is committed within the scope of their authority.[i] Unincorporated associations are generally held to be liable in tort.[ii] Unincorporated associations are responsible for personal injuries sustained by their failure to use ordinary care in the erection or maintenance of buildings, or structures fit for the purposes of their organization.  Individuals can be held personally liable in a voluntary association for tort liability.[iii] However, a voluntary association is not liable for the tort of a member when committed outside the scope of its control over his/her acts.[iv]

The general rule is one principal is not civilly liable to another for the tortious acts of an agent who acts for both parties with their consent.  However, the principal will be responsible, if there is collusion with the agent or active participation in the wrongful act.[v] If there is no authorization or ratification by the members of an association, then the association is not liable for intentional torts by its members.  Similarly, an association is not liable for the fraudulent representations of one who has no authority to bind it.

If a person is involved in business for his/her own interest and entrusts a part of the work to another person, he/she becomes personally liable for the work done by the other person.  However, if the business person cannot select, control or discharge the other person whom he/she entrusted the business, then he/she does not have any tort liability.[vi]

It was observed by the court that an organization which organizes or promotes  free public entertainment can be charged with liability for damages for personal injuries to spectators caused by negligence.[vii] An unincorporated association can be held liable in tort for its negligence if such negligence is the proximate cause of an injury giving rise to the injury.  However, if the injured party is suing on the theory of respondent superior, the unincorporated association cannot be held liable in tort for negligence without a jury finding negligence on the part of an employee of the unincorporated association while acting as employee and within the scope of his/her employment.[viii]

[i] Hutchins v. Grace Tabernacle United Pentecostal Church, 804 S.W.2d 598 (Tex. App. Houston 1st Dist. 1991)

[ii] Hall v. Walters, 226 S.C. 430 (S.C. 1955)

[iii] Hartford Acci. & Indem. Co. v. Sena, 42 Conn. Supp. 336 (Conn. Super. Ct. 1992)

[iv] Cox v. Government Employees Ins. Co., 126 F.2d 254 (6th Cir. Ky. 1942)

[v] Gonzales v. American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO, 948 S.W.2d 794 (Tex. App. San Antonio 1997)

[vi] Guy v. Donald, 203 U.S. 399 (U.S. 1906)

[vii] Marth v. Kingfisher Commercial Club, 44 Okla. 514 (Okla. 1914)

[viii] Morrison v. Concord Kiwanis Club, 52 N.C. App. 454 (N.C. Ct. App. 1981)


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