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Wise v. Bloomfield College

A-3447-98T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2000) (Unpublished)

CHARITABLE IMMUNITY—A student is no less a beneficiary of a college’s benefactions just because injuries resulted from a fall in a dormitory shower; thus, charitable immunity still protects the college.

A college student, living in one of the college’s dormitories, slipped and fell while taking a shower in the dormitory. Her suit against the college was dismissed on the ground that the college was entitled to immunity under the Charitable Immunity Statute. There was no dispute that she was a student or that she was living in a dormitory. Nonetheless, she claimed that because, at the time of her injury, she was taking a shower in the dormitory, she was not engaged in educational pursuits. Rather she said, “there was no more than a landlord/tenant relationship with the College at the time of her fall and, thus, at the time of her fall she was ‘unconcerned in and unrelated to and outside the benefactions of’ the College.” Case law was found to hold otherwise. Claims that a student was “merely” a student and therefore not necessarily a beneficiary of a college had been dismissed in other cases. In one case holding for a college, a student had slipped and fallen in a pub operated on campus by the university solely for students and their guests. Nonetheless, the ruling was in favor of the college. Case law has afforded “to nonprofit institutions, whether educational, religious or charitable, substantial latitude in determining the appropriate avenues for achieving their objectives.” In a college, those objectives might reasonably include operation of facilities not directly educational in nature without causing the college to lose immune status. Such activities do not alter either the fundamental educational nature of the institution or the relationship of the student to the institution as a beneficiary of its works. In sum, this student was no less a student of the college because she was using its dormitory shower.


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