Lawyers & Victims & Lawsuits, Oh My!
A recent movie came out called Snakes on a Plane. You can guess what it was about. Could it happen in real life? Of course, and if it did, there would unquestionably be problems. However, you are more likely to be struck by lightning while drawing the winning lottery ticket. Being involved in a lawsuit is not all that different.
A lawsuit is a always a possibility for a house corporation or active chapter. While state laws vary, it is unlikely for a member volunteer to be held personally liable unless there is a deliberate act or gross negligence. Here’s an example:
A house corporation hires a contractor to build a stairway in the chapter house. The contractor uses cheap glue and carpet tacks to construct it. The carpet tears loose causing a guest to trip and get hurt. The guest sues the active chapter, the house corporation and its president.
In this scenario, active chapter would not likely have liability because it had nothing to do with the selection of contractor or the construction. The house corporation would not likely have liability if it used discretion in hiring the contractor. Using discretion means that the contractor was selected based on perceived expertise, references, etc. As long as the basis for the decision was reasonable to an unbiased observer, the house corporation and its members are protected. The president of the house corporation would have no personal liability if he was acting as the president and not as an individual.
In this example, while active chapter, house corporation and president are all sued, they all would likely be dismissed from the lawsuit.
Lawsuits can happen any time and any place. If one comes your way, consult with a knowledgeable attorney. When a lawsuit is received, don’t panic. Most states have laws which are favorable to volunteers and entities such as a house corporation.
By Grand Trustee Tommy Geddings.