Court reduces sum that jury gave woman

FORT WORTH – The jury award for a woman who sued a Colleyville church saying she was subjected to bruising exorcism attempts shrank to $178,000 after a ruling last week by the 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth.

In 2002, a Tarrant County jury awarded Laura Schubert $300,000 for mental anguish, past physical pain, medical expenses and loss of future income for injuries she received at the Pleasant Glade Assembly of God Church.

On Thursday, the appeals court stripped away $122,000 in damages for Schubert’s loss of future income but upheld the rest of the verdict. Church members could not have foreseen that their actions would cause Schubert, then 17, to lose the ability to earn money, the decision states.

During the trial, references to the alleged exorcisms in 1996 were excluded by an earlier order of the same appellate court.

Jurors awarded the money after finding that Schubert had been falsely imprisoned and assaulted.

Schubert testified in 2002 that she was cut and bruised and later experienced hallucinations as a result of church members’ actions.

The pastor, Lloyd McCutchen, did not respond to a phone message seeking comment. He has said the accusations are preposterous.

After the 2002 verdict, Pleasant Glade merged with another congregation in Colleyville to become the Colleyville Assembly of God Church, said the Rev. Vic Schober, superintendent of the North Texas District Council of the Assemblies of God in Hurst. McCutchen heads the new Colleyville church.

Schubert’s father, Tom Schubert, said the diminished award does not bother his daughter.

The appeals court “let it stand that the church was still being held responsible for what they did,” he said.

The church’s attorney, David Pruessner of Dallas, said through his legal assistant that the church will appeal to the Texas Supreme Court. He was unavailable for further comment.

In her lawsuit, Schubert said that on two occasions, several days apart, in June 1996, church members held her down and prayed to drive demons from her.

She struggled, which church youth leaders and members took as signs that demons were fighting them, the lawsuit stated.

During the trial, Schubert testified that the ordeal led her to self-mutilate, attempt suicide and experience hallucinations during which hands reached out from her bedroom walls to grab her.

In its appeal, the church said Schubert, now 26 and living in Marietta, Ga., was an out-of-control, attention-seeking teen-ager.

During the trial, church officials and members testified that they wanted only to help Schubert.

Tom Schubert said his daughter has moved on with her life and is pursuing a college degree in criminal justice. But he said the matter is still unresolved because McCutchen and others have not taken responsibility for injuring his daughter. McCutchen was present during the second incident, according to Laura Schubert’s lawsuit.

“I think pastor McCutchen is basically a good man and he got involved in a frenzy of religious fervor,” said Tom Schubert, a former Assemblies of God minister and missionary.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday July 15, 2005.
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