Summary of the State’s Position on Charitable Immunity

The Wisconsin Supreme Court abolished the concept of charitable immunity from the common law in the 1960s. Wisconsin laws provide for limited liability for: (1) volunteers of not-for-profit corporations, (2) directors, leaders and volunteers of the Roman Catholic Church and other religious organizations, (3) volunteer health care providers, (4) volunteer firefighters, and (5) those engaged in donations or sales to nonprofit food, emergency household supplies, emergency medical supplies and waste.

Summary of relevant statutes on charitable immunity and volunteers

Wis. Stat. § 187.33 Limited Liability of Volunteers – Roman Catholic Church

A volunteer is defined as a person, other than an employee of the Incorporated Roman Catholic Church, who provides services to or on behalf of the Incorporated Roman Catholic Church without compensation. Volunteers are exempt from civil liability for acts or omissions, unless the volunteer engages in criminal behavior or intentional misconduct, or acts within the framework of his official duties as a director or officer. Exceptions include government proceedings other than those initiated as a government contractor, an express private right of action under state or federal law for violations of state or federal law, negligent operation of a vehicle, acts or omissions in the scope of practice under license, certification, permit or registration; and procedures for actions for which the volunteer is immunized under various other state statutes.

Wis. Stat. § 187.43 Limited Liability of Volunteers – Other Religious Organizations

A volunteer is defined as a person, other than an employee of the religious organization, who provides services to or on behalf of a religious organization without compensation. Volunteers are exempt from civil liability for acts or omissions, unless the volunteer engages in criminal behavior or intentional misconduct, or acts within the scope of his official duties as a director or officer. Exceptions include government proceedings other than those initiated as a government contractor, an express private right of action under state or federal law for violations of state or federal law, negligent operation of a vehicle, acts or omissions in the scope of practice under license, certification, permit or registration; and procedures for actions for which the volunteer is immunized under various other state statutes.

Wis. Stat. § 187.32 Limited Liability of Director and Officers – Roman Catholic Church

Directors and officers of the Incorporated Roman Catholic Church acting within the scope of their official duties are exempt from civil liability unless the director or officer engages in criminal behavior, willful misconduct, or shows bad faith in any matter. matter where the director or officer has a material conflict of interest. . Exceptions include government proceedings other than those initiated as a government contractor, an express private right of action under federal or state law for violations of state or federal law, and any obligation relating to funds held in custody. trust for the operation of a cemetery. .

Wis. Stat. § 187.42 Limited Liability of Director and Officers – Other Religious Organizations

Directors and officers of a religious organization acting within the framework of their official duties are exempt from civil liability unless the administrator or volunteer officer engages in criminal behavior, willful misconduct, shows bad faith in a matter where the director or officer has a material conflict of interest, or takes undue personal gain. Exceptions include government proceedings other than those initiated as a government contractor, an express private right of action under federal or state law for violations of state or federal law, and any obligation relating to funds held in custody. trust for the operation of a cemetery. .

Wis. Stat. § 181.067 Limited liability of volunteers – companies without shares

A volunteer is defined as a person, other than an employee of the company, who provides services to or on behalf of the company without remuneration. Volunteers are exempt from civil liability for acts or omissions, unless the volunteer engages in criminal behavior or intentional misconduct, or acts in the course of his official duties as a director or officer, or has was negligent and did not have a title, license, registration, certification, permit or approval in the practice of a profession, trade or occupation that requires it. Exceptions include government proceedings other than those initiated as a government contractor, and an express private right of action under federal or state law for violations of state or federal law.

Wis. Stat. § 146.89 Volunteer Health Care Provider Program

A volunteer health care provider is defined as a person who is a licensed physician, nurse, medical assistant, midwife, dentist, dental hygienist, optometrist, pharmacist, chiropractor, podiatrist, physiotherapist, psychologist or therapist, registered social worker or registered dietitian. , and who does not receive any income from the practice of his health profession while providing services to the non-profit organization. Wisconsin volunteer health care providers are generally classified as state officials unless the volunteer is licensed, certified, or registered out of state and determined by the Department of Services. health care providers to have sufficient liability insurance coverage. The recoverable amounts are capped; no punitive damage is allowed; and acts performed in the exercise of legislative, quasi-legislative, judicial or quasi-judicial functions enjoy absolute immunity. Volunteer health care providers who are not classified as state officials are exempt from civil liability for acts and omissions resulting from the provision of services, unless the volunteer violates a state statute or rule or commits gross negligence or willful misconduct.

Wis. Stat. § 893.80 Claims against government agencies, officers, agents, employees

A volunteer is defined as a person who provides services or performs functions for and is subject to the right of control of a volunteer firefighting company, political society or government subdivision or agency thereof. here without compensation. The volunteer fire company, political society or government subdivision or agency and its officers, officers, agents and employees are liable for acts performed in their official capacity or in the course of their office or employment, but written notice of the claim must be served on the volunteer fire company, political society or government subdivision or agency, and the officer, official, agent or employee within 120 days depending on the event giving rise to the complaint. The recoverable amounts are capped; no punitive damage is allowed; and acts performed in the exercise of legislative, quasi-legislative, judicial or quasi-judicial functions enjoy absolute immunity.

Wis. Stat. § 895.51 Exemption from civil liability: emergency food or household products; Emergency medical supplies (amended by Law 185 / COVID-19)

A charitable organization is defined as an organization whose contributions are deductible from taxable income under Wisconsin law. Anyone who donates or sells food at cost to a charity is exempt from any liability for death or injury caused by the donated food. Anyone who donates or sells qualified emergency household products at cost to a charity in response to a government declared state of emergency is exempt from liability caused by the emergency household product. Anyone who donates or sells emergency medical supplies at cost to a charity in response to the public health emergency caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic is exempt from liability for death or injury. caused by the donation of emergency medical supplies. Any charity that distributes qualified food, emergency household products, or emergency medical supplies free of charge to any person is exempt from all liability for death or injury caused by qualified food, household products from emergency or emergency medical supplies.

Wis. Stat. § 895.517 Liability exemption: donation or sale of solid waste

A charitable organization is defined as an organization whose contributions are deductible from taxable income under Wisconsin law. Anyone who donates or sells solid waste, or material separate from mixed soil waste, at cost cost to a charity, is exempt from liability for death, injury or property damage caused by the solid waste or material. materials.

Applicable case law

The Wisconsin Supreme Court abolished the common law doctrine of charitable immunity in the early 1960s. The court first abolished the tort immunity of charitable hospitals with respect to payment of patients in Kojis vs. Doctors Hosp., 12 Wis. 2d 367 (1961). The following year, the court presided over Duncan v. Steeper, 17 Wis. 2d 226 (1962) and extended its earlier ruling in Kojis to include indigent or unpaid patients. The following year, the court struck down the immunity of religious organizations for negligence in Widell v. Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 19 Wis. 2d 648 (1963).

Volunteer fire companies are generally recognized as charitable or social welfare organizations. The immunity of Wisconsin volunteer firefighters is inextricably linked with government immunity because firefighters perform a government function. Municipal immunity derives from common law and was first enacted by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1873. Under municipal immunity, liability is the rule and immunity the exception.

State and municipal immunity for public officials in the performance of their acts within the scope of employment is subject to four exceptions identified in case law. There is no immunity of public officials from liability related to: 1) the exercise of ministerial functions imposed by law; 2) the known and imperative dangers which give rise to ministerial duties on the part of civil servants or public employees; 3) acts involving medical discretion; and 4) malicious acts, willful and intentional. These exceptions as well as an explanation of what constitutes a ministerial duty and a known and overriding danger are discussed in Lodl v. Progressive Northern Ins. Co., 253 Wis, 2d 323 (2002).

Applying the aforementioned analysis in Brown v. Acuity, 348 Wis.2d 603 (2013), the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that public official immunity did not protect a volunteer firefighter from liability who silently started a red light. and collided with a passenger vehicle.



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