Monday, September 16, 2019
Court of Appeal:
Opinion Says Televangist Acted in Corporate Capacity in Rebuking Girl, 13, for Allowing Man She Had Never Met to Sleep in Her Hotel Bed; $900,000 Judgment Upheld
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Televangalist Jan Crouch, who died in 2016, above, is responsible for causing intentional infliction of emotional distress of her granddaughter by shouting at her that she was to blame for being drugged and raped in light of having allowed a strange man to sleep in her hotel room bed. The Court of Appeal on Friday upheld a $900,000 judgment against the corporation that owns Trinity Broadcasting Network, under a respondeat superior theory. Jan Crouch was a corporate official and the granddaughter, then 13, was in Atlanta in connection with a TBN fundraising telethon.
The Santa Ana-based corporation that operates the Trinity Broadcasting Network was properly found liable for $900,000 because one of the corporate officers in 2016 shouted at her granddaughter, then 13—who had been drugged and raped—that she was “stupid” to have consumed alcohol with a strange man and allowed him to sleep in her bed, the Court of Appeal held Friday.
Justice Richard D. Fybel of the Fourth District’s Div. Three wrote the opinion. It affirms a judgment in favor of Carra Crouch against the Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana, Inc. Her grandmother, televangelist Jan Crouch, who died in 2016, was described by Orange Superior Court Judge Peter J. Wilson, who presided at the trial, as “the boss of the church.”
Jan Crouch, along with her husband, Paul Crouch Sr., who died in 2013, founded TBN in 1973, along with Jim and Tammy Bakker, whose involvement with the network ended in 1975. From the start, Jan Crouch was network vice president.
Carra Crouch, in April of 2016, went to Atlanta to participate in a TBN fundraising telethon. She shared a room with cousin Nathan, whose age at the time is not disclosed by the opinion.
The opinion does specify that one Steve Smith, then a church employee, was 30. He asked if he could “crash” in their room that night; Carra Crouch, though uncomfortable about it, assented, assuming he would sleep on the floor.
He brought alcohol with him and ordered champagne from room service, and they drank together. During the night, he said he was uncomfortable on the floor, and Carra Crouch allowed him to come on her bed, with a pillow between them.
At one point, he entreated her to drink what he portrayed as water; she did; she was drugged. When she awoke, she realized she had been raped.
On April 24, 2006, Carra Crouch, in the company of her mother, visited Jan Crouch, her “grandmother and the family matriarch,” according to Fybel’s opinion.
Carra Crouch testified at trial that her grandmother, upon being told what had occurred, shouted at her:
“How could you be so stupid? How could you drink alcohol? How could you let this man in your room? How could you, how could you, how could you, blah, blah, blah. And she eventually said, ‘well, this is really your fault.’ ”
Her mother, Tawny Crouch, recounted that Jan Crouch’s words were:
“How could you let a stranger in your room—a strange man in your room? Why would you drink alcohol with a strange man? You know, didn’t your mom teach you any better? Tawny, aren’t you a better mother than that? Why didn’t you teach her?
“...Carra, it’s your fault. You know, you’re the one [who] let this happen.”
Psychological problems encountered by the plaintiff in the ensuing years were portrayed as traceable not only to the rape but to the bawling out by her grandmother.
The jury assessed damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress at $2 million. Carra Crouch accepted a remittitur to damages to $900,000.
In his opinion affirming the judgment, Fybel said:
“We do not hesitate to exclaim ‘Outrageous!’ when presented with the facts of Jan Crouch’s behavior toward Carra. Flying into a tirade at a 13 year old girl who had been drugged and raped and yelling at her that she was stupid and it was her fault is extreme and outrageous conduct that exceeds that bounds of decency tolerated in a civilized community. Such conduct is not mere insults, indignities, petty oppressions or other trivialities. At age 13, Carra suffered a horrible, traumatic, and life altering experience. Yelling at her that she was stupid and it was her fault was cruel, intolerable, and obviously certain to produce severe emotional harm.”
The jurist went on to declare:
“It was entirely foreseeable that somebody injured in connection with a corporate event would report that injury to the corporate official who was in charge of that event and who was running the show. That is what happened here when Tawny took Carra to see Jan Crouch. We conclude it was therefore also foreseeable that the corporate official could and would respond to the report in a tortious manner, making the corporate employer liable under a respondeat superior theory.”
Fybel said that “[b]ecause Jan Crouch was acting in her capacity as an officer or director on April 24, 2006, her behavior on that day was not merely part of a family squabble.”
The case is Crouch v. Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana, Inc., 2019 S.O.S. 2565.
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