“And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21
David Jimenez and his wife, Delia, are devout Catholics. When she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2008, he would stop between food deliveries at the St. Patrick’s Church in Newburgh, New York to pray before a large outdoor crucifix. Two years, later, Delia was declared cancer free.
David wanted to show his gratitude. He volunteered to clean up the cross, first by removing the trash from around the crucifix, then by scrubbing it clean. Unfortunately, while cleaning Christ’s face, he stood on the base of the crucifix and used the cross bar for support. The leverage of his weight snapped the 600-pound marble crucifix off of the base and onto his leg. The damage was so severe that doctors were forced to amputate that leg, reports The Associated Press.
Jimenez's lawyers say that the statue was only secured by a single screw. His medical bills are in the six figure range and he has been unable to work since losing his leg.
But is it the church's fault?
The liability of a landowner for injuries to visitors often depends on the legal status of the visitor. For example, landowner has less of a duty to an illegal trespasser than to an invited guest. Jimenez was invited onto the property and was cleaning the crucifix with the church's permission. A landowner's duty is greatest to these invitees.
What duty might that be? The landowner has the duty to act reasonably in ensuring the safety of the premises. They are supposed to inspect for known dangers, such as puddles of water on the floor or bare electric wires hanging from the ceiling. One would imagine that they would have the duty to secure a 600-pound crucifix with more than a single screw as well.
On the other hand, their liability must be balanced against Jimenez's own negligence. One could truly debate how much he is to be held at fault for his own injury. He was using the cross-bar of an old and neglected statue for support of his weight. The reasonable person likely has sufficient education to understand the principles of leverage. If you hang on the edge of a cross, that puts a lot of pressure on that single support screw, which is likely aged and corroded.
Then again, who would expect a massive crucifix to be secured with only a single screw?
- Discuss Your Case With a New York Personal Injury Attorney (FindLaw)
- New York Premises Liability: Questions and Answers (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- Tiny Payout for Toddler with Burned Hands Caused by City Park (FindLaw's New York Personal Injury Law Blog)
- Defending NY: Contributory Negligence and the Bronx Zoo Crash (FindLaw's New York Personal Injury Law Blog)