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Liability Issues

While it may be gratifying to be involved in a network, it is not unusual for both individuals and organizations to be concerned about liability. Fear of personal liability has been stated as a deterrent to joining networks, boards of directors, and advisory boards, even though the number of individuals and organizations who have actually been sued for their role in a network is quite small. That said, in the interest of prevention, it may be beneficial to identify potential legal problems and solutions of how to address them before they happen.

A risk management plan can be developed by network members to proactively identify potential risks and create a system for monitoring and controlling them. The risk management plan is an internal, living document that should be revisited over time, as the scope and breadth of the network may change.

Some networks and coalitions make a disclaimer of liability publicly available on their website to outline they are neither liable nor responsible for services and opinions provided by members of the coalition.

While network members in all capacities are expected to understand and abide by network-specific bylaws and articles of incorporation, each state has unique laws that address liability issues (often considered tort laws) as well. Legislation changes over time, so it is important to research the most up-to-date state-specific statutes. These can be found through Congress.gov, or the Library of Congress.

Resources to Learn More

How to Research a Legal Problem: A Guide for Non-Lawyers
Document
This step-by-step guide was developed to help lay people find legal rules to resolve or prevent a conflict. It includes resources and tips.
Author(s): Warthen, L. & Nesbit, A.
Organization(s): American Association of Law Libraries

Understanding the Unique Liabilities of Serving as a Director or Officer of a Nonprofit
Document
This document, written by a lawyer who specializes in the area of directors' and officers' liability, outlines potential legal risks that could be encountered by nonprofit directors and officers, as well as some suggestions on how to minimize those risks.
Author(s): Costello, B.
Organization(s): American Bar Association
Date: 2013