Court orders new trial in church lawsuit
LANSING, Mich. - The michiganCourt of Appeals on Friday reversed part of a $315,000 award given to a woman whose fall during a service led to a falling-out with her former church and pastor.
In her civil lawsuit filed in July 2005, Judith Dadd of Lansing claimed that during a rally at mount hope Church in Eaton County's Delta Township in July 2002, she went to the altar and was "overcome by the Spirit of the Lord."
She said she fell backward and struck her head on the floor, and that the church was negligent because no usher was there to catch her. She also said the pastor, David R. Williams, damaged her reputation by suggesting she faked the injury and might be trying to commit insurance fraud.
In its ruling, the three-member court said Dadd was entitled to the $40,000 awarded for negligence but ruled that the remaining claims for false light, libel and slander must be considered at a new trial.
The judges said the lower court judge erred in not properly instructing the jury that Williams may have had a "qualified privilege" to discuss Dadd with certain members of his congregation.
They reversed the nearly $274,000 the jury awarded Dadd for false light, libel and slander and sent the case back for a new trial on those issues.
Dadd, who was a member of the church for 12 years, claimed in her lawsuit that she still suffers from the effects of the fall, including symptoms of depression, memory loss and difficulty concentrating.