As a personal injury attorney in St. Louis you run across a lot of interesting stories. People find all kinds of ways to get hurt and to hurt others. The following slip and fall related story, from ABC News, is definitely not something you hear everyday.
A churchgoer at the Disciple Fellowship Christian Church in East St. Louis, Ill., claims the spirit moved a fellow worshiper so much during service that she caused others to fall over backwards into her, causing personal injuries. The congregant is now suing the church for damages, apparently for being too inspirational.
Cheryl Jones, the injured woman, alleges in a complaint filed last month that she was visiting the church when member received a hefty dose of "spirit" and, with no ushers there to assist, the parishioner fell backwards knocking several other people into the plaintiff.
An attorney for the plaintiff, says, "They should have either warned Cheryl and people like her of the potential dangers - especially if they're not going to have deacons or parishioners to help these people when they fall." The attorney says the church should have been aware of the danger as falling during service is something that apparently happens frequently.
Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington Law School said that the case presents intriguing questions regarding what standard of law to apply, "someone engaged by the holy spirit and not fully accountable or someone that should be treated objectively as assuming the risk of this activity." When filled with what is often called the holy spirit, "participants are worked up into such a frenzy that they may no longer appreciate or respond to risk. The question is how much is the church responsible in anticipating people will be acting without concern for danger or injury," said Turley.
Turley went on to explain that, "The whole idea of being touched by the holy spirit is to surrender yourself. In doing so, these are people that surrendering themselves to collapsing involuntary. These churches tend to treat this response as the holy ghost has taken away the power of the individuals to even stand."
Jones' complaint alleges the church was negligent and should now pay her medical bills that resulted from her falling and losing consciousness after hitting her head, neck, back and buttocks during the January 5, 2010 services. The complaint claims that the church typically had "two ushers that would stand on each side of the member to prevent the person receiving the 'spirit' from falling and injuring themselves" but no one was present when she was injured.
Jones accuses the church of negligence for failure to provide parishioners a safe place to worship; failure to ensure ushers were standing behind the parishioners to catch if they fell to the floor after the Pastor laid his hands on them; failure to control the parishioners who were receiving the "spirit"; failure to warn plaintiff and parishioners of the potential dangers of receiving the "spirit"; and failure to conduct a reasonably safe service.
According to ABC News, the complaint is a part of a recent national trend of suits dubbed "swoon and fall." A woman in Michigan filed a lawsuit against her church after she struck her head on the floor when an assistant minister prayed over her, allegedly causing her to be "slain in the spirit" and fall backwards. In Oregon, a church was not found liable after a woman was injured while assisting during service while other churchgoers were blessed and fell on top of her.
Professor Turley says that the trend indicates that churchgoers are "discovering that churches are not immune from tort liability. Church has no special status when it comes to tort law. They are an institution that must take reasonable precaution."
If you've been injured, whether in church or not, you need an experienced St. Louis injury attorney to fight to ensure you receive the benefits you deserve. Contact Sansone / Lauber today for a free initial consultation at (314) 863-0500.
Source: "Evangelical Churches Catch Suits From 'Spirit' Falls," by Lyneka Little, published at ABCNews.com.
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