The question is often raised on: “What legal protections can the university provide for volunteering individuals and what are the responsibilities of a volunteer?”
The university recognizes the involvement of volunteers in programs and activities. Volunteers cannot be employees, and the term “volunteer” has legal definition as established in common and criminal decisions. Just as any entity, the university community must be judicious and assure we are using volunteers for appropriate activities and that volunteers understand the roles and responsibilities they accept.
In general, a volunteer will inevitably be under the direction of a university employee and considered an “agent”. If the injury or loss is within the scope of the volunteer activity, the university will be liable if the volunteer is negligent. If it is a frolic, or it is an intentional tort or criminal act by the volunteer, the university will not be liable.
It is important to realize this general statement can be more complex in practice, and the answer may be dependent upon the specific facts of a given situation. That being said, it is intent of Marquette to provide liability protection for volunteers, subject to the limitations set forth below.
The university is responsible for the negligence of its employees. Volunteers are not employees or eligible for Workers Compensation benefits. Therefore, volunteers are responsible for health and medical bills for sickness and injury, including sickness or injury that may occur while volunteering for the university. To the extent that the volunteer is being supervised by an employee and causes an injury or property damage, that negligence will be attributed to the university, and the university will be responsible to defend and pay judgments for legal liability. Therefore, it is important that the activities of the volunteer are known to the university college officials. Knowledge by such entities is important in establishing the volunteer was under the “direction” of the university for legal liability.
If the volunteer is not participating in an activity in which he or she is being supervised by or responsible to a university employee, or engages in a criminal activity including sexual harassment, driving vehicles while intoxicated, discrimination, etc., and causes an injury or property damage loss, the volunteer will be responsible for their acts of legal liability.
Since the university does not indemnify or insure volunteers with respect to their activities, each volunteer should determine on his or her own whether he or she should obtain personal/family liability insurance coverage in addition to any needed health insurance benefits. Volunteers should not be operating a university owned or rented motor vehicle without official approval, and any approval is subject to the university’s training and driver policy.