What Is Charitable Immunity?

Charitable immunity is a legal doctrine stating that if an organization is deemed to be a charity it might not be held liable for an injury caused by the negligence of an organization’s employee. Charitable immunity may apply to some non-profit organizations such as churches and hospitals.


In medical malpractice cases, the charitable immunity doctrine is predicated on the concept that it would be against public policy to require a non-profit organization to expend its resources paying judgments, which would in turn decrease the charitable hospital’s ability to treat patients.

Charitable Immunity Example

An example in which the charitable immunity could be applied is, let’s say, when a church-run hospital injures a patient by nicking or severing their bowel or ureter. The hospital could probably raise charitable immunity as a defense and be protected from a medical malpractice injury claim. Although extremely helpful for most nonprofit organizations, this doctrine does not protect against an action claiming an infringement of constitutional rights or a breach of contract.

However, some sates have imposed limitation on recovery from charitable organizations by capping damages or allowing damages only to the extent of the available insurance.  In Virginia, the charitable immunity defense is alive and well. In a 2005 Virginia Supreme Court case, the justices declared that the charitable immunity doctrine is “firmly embedded in state jurisprudence and has become part of its general public policy.”

At Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp, we are here to help if you need a Hampton, Virginia personal injury lawyer. If you or a loved one has been harmed due to the actions of someone else, we will investigate your claim and help you recover full compensation for your losses.