An Ohio megachurch is not entitled to collect $1 million from its insurer toward a $3.1 million settlement with the parents of a 2-year-old boy beaten by a daycare worker, the state supreme court ruled on Thursday (May 12).
The justices unanimously rejected a bid by World Harvest Church in Columbus to collect the amount from Grange Mutual Casualty Co. following a lengthy battle in Franklin County courts.
An abuse and molestation exclusion in Grange’s insurance policy with the church on Gender Road bars coverage of the damages, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wrote in the court’s opinion.
Church lawyers had argued that the boy’s injuries inflicted in 2006 did not stem from abuse, but rather from excessive corporal punishment.
The justices overturned the Franklin County Court of Appeals, which had found that Grange was responsible for providing coverage for damages and legal fees.
Michael and Lacey Faieta were banished from World Harvest Church after they claimed their son had been injured by daycare worker Richard Vaughan.
They sued in 2006, contending the church intentionally inflicted emotional distress by failing to investigate their claims that their son was beaten with a ruler and that it was negligent in hiring and supervising Vaughan.
World Harvest contended at trial in Franklin County Common Pleas Court that the incident never took place and that the welts and bruises on the boy’s body, including his penis, were the result of a skin rash.
A jury awarded $6 million in damages, but the amount was reduced by a judge to $2.9 million to reflect caps on damages. The church then settled the case in 2009 for $3.1 million, including post-judgment interest, and sued Grange Mutual. Vaughan, who was not charged with any crime, was found responsible for about $82,000 in damages.
When the church settled the case in 2009, Rod Parsley, pastor of World Harvest Church, took to the internet with a fundraising appeal to help the church deal with a “diabolically, demonically inspired financial attack.”
“Will you help me take back what the devil stole?” Parsley asked.
Lawyers for World Harvest Church and Grange Mutual did not respond to requests for comment on the ruling.