I’ve seen cases based on unusual fact patterns, but this personal injury claim is a first for me. In 2002, a Tarrant County jury awarded a plaintiff $300,000 (later reduced to $188,000) for injuries that she suffered during a forced exorcism. The Texas Supreme Court summarized the facts of ne of two incidents as:
During the evening service, Laura collapsed. After her collapse, several church members took Laura to a classroom where they “laid hands” on her and prayed. According to Laura, church members forcibly held her arms crossed over her chest, despite her demands to be freed. According to those present, Laura clenched her fists, gritted her teeth, foamed at the mouth, made guttural noises, cried, yelled, kicked, sweated, and hallucinated. The parties sharply dispute whether these actions were the cause or the result of her physical restraint.
The plaintiff sued her church and church members claiming that she not only had physical injuries, but also suffered severe mental anguish (including later hallucinations that may have led to suicide attempts).
This summer, the Texas Supreme Court overturned the verdict saying that the case "presents an ecclesiastical dispute over religious conduct that would unconstitutionally entangle the court in matters of church doctrine."
Lawyers for the plaintiff say that they are now appealing the decision to the US Supreme Court. Now normally, I wouldn’t think much of that since the US Supreme Court only agrees to hear a fraction of the cases appealed to it. But the Court does like religious freedom cases, and this one might have a shot. I’ll try and keep readers posted as the case progresses.