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Church to pay $3K for woman's injuries from altar call crush

"To err is human; to forgive, divine," Alexander Pope once said. Assuming the divine nature of it, forgiveness is hard to be certain of after someone has been hurt as a result of human error.

But that doesn't mean that the error should be overlooked. The law allows victims hurt on other's properties to be compensated if premises liability regarding unsafe conditions can be proven.

This was borne out again recently in the settlement of a lawsuit against a church. It took place in another state, but could well have happened in Pennsylvania.

A woman who was attending a service at an evangelical church in 2010 alleged that the organization failed to take adequate precautions to keep visitors safe during a congregational rush to "receive the spirit."

In a suit filed in 2011, she claimed that in the crush of people, one person toppled backward and she became buried under bodies that fell on her in a domino effect. Ushers from the church were on post to try to help those struck in the spirit as they fell, but they didn't catch them all. The plaintiff claimed she passed out under the press of people and suffered serious head, neck and back injuries.

She sought more than $50,000 in compensation. The church sought to dismiss the suit, claiming that to hold it liable would infringe on the church's constitutional right to practice its faith as it sees fit.

The woman has since died and pursuit of the case fell to her daughter as special representative of the state. She apparently determined to end the dispute and earlier this month, the two parties reached a settlement.

Under the terms of the settlement approved by a judge, the church has agreed to pay $3,000. The money will go to clear a Medicare lien against the estate and the plaintiff's legal fees.

Source: The Madison-St. Clair Record, "East St. Louis church ordered to pay $3K for woman's fall as congregants rushed to 'receive the spirit'," Christa Stueve Hodges, April 25, 2013

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