The Strange Case of Injury at a Healing Service

January 5, 2016 | J. Price McNamara
The Strange Case of Injury at a Healing Service

As we talked about in previous blogs, people will go to some crazy lengths to try and get a “quick” buck. In most cases, these end up getting them in more trouble. Some of these staged cases can make the legitimate ones seem like cons, and unfortunately, they can put a stigma on personal injury lawsuits. With an experienced personal injury lawyer, these legitimate cases can be brought to justice, and people can get compensation for their pain and suffering. Today, we’re going to continue our conversation of strange personal injury cases, and how they’re not always so black and white. In this case, the plaintiff claimed to suffer from a personal injury in the least likely place, a church.

The Unusual Case

In August 2001, a woman named Gloria DeFrancesco in Akron, Ohio took her 94-year-old mother to go see a healing service by the TV evangelist Ernest Angley. People from all over the country flocked to Angley’s televised services at Grace Cathedral. The services were well-known for dramatically curing members of the pulpit. After the healing show, they would fall back into the ministry worker’s arms after the healings. It would make sense that there could be some injuries at these events, which was DeFrancesco’s experience. It was at one of these showy services, that DeFrancesco was reportedly injured, trying to take her mother up to the stage. According to the lawsuit, six of Angley’s employees blocked DeFrancesco and her mother from going to the stage and assaulted her in the process. DeFrancesco claimed that she suffered from a detached retina, and sued the evangelist and his employees for $25,000 compensation.

Two Sides to Every Story

One thing that stands out to me about this personal injury case is that all of the research I found had a different perspective of the case. There’s DeFrancesco’s perspective, in which she claimed to be roughed up by ushers while trying to get her wheelchair-bound mother to the healing stage. DeFrancesco’s mother was a “long-term” financial contributor to the church and was asked to go to the handicapped area to wait before going on stage to be healed. According to the lawsuit, the workers grabbed her and lifter her off the ground before striking her down. She claimed to have to go to the hospital and undergo surgery to fix her eye. She ended up suffering from facial and body trauma, as well as emotional and psychological damages. Then there’s a slew of viewpoints from Angley’s employees and pulpit. According to the spokesman of Angley’s church, DeFrancesco’s story was of epic proportions and got crazier the more than she told it. From his perspective, DeFrancesco started a fight by using her umbrella to hit one of the ushers “20 times in the gonads.” (Which, if you ask me, his version of the story seems a little bit crazier than hers.) According to a local newspaper, the business manager of Angley’s church said that DeFrancesco made the allegations completely up. One witness told the police that Angley injured herself by falling face first on the parking lot pavement while walking to her car. The witness went on to say that the fall was and that later she was seen hitting her head on the dashboard of her car. The spokesman of the church said that DeFrancesco schemed the entire ordeal and asked for compensation before filing for a lawsuit. There were lots of holes in this case. The whole case was based on hearsay from the plaintiff and the church witness. There wasn’t sufficient testimony from medical personnel to exemplify whether the injuries were self-induced or caused from the ushers. It would make sense that the witness of the church would take Angley’s side, as church-goers can sometimes get carried away by a minister’s charisma. On the other hand, we saw from the Wendy’s chili case that people DO go to some extreme measures to try and claim injury. If DeFrancesco had truly been harmed by the ushers to an extent that she’d need medical attention, it would seem more logical for her to claim assault charges – then, there’s the mechanics that go into filing a personal injury lawsuit against a ministry. Just like personal injury lawsuits against businesses, there needs to be sufficient evidence that the plaintiff’s injury was the establishment’s fault.

Can You File Against Ministries?

It’s not totally uncommon for people to file personal injury cases against religious ministries. In fact, a lot of these religious institutions operate like businesses, so they often carry liability insurance. Churches, just like businesses, have a legal obligation to make sure that its pulpit, employees, volunteers, and even visitors are safe while they’re on church premises. If a church official hasn’t kept up with its property, then the victim has a right to receive compensation for the injuries that were suffered. Sometimes churches are also liable for unforeseeable accidents. If you’ve been injured on the premises of a church, synagogue, or other areas of worship, you have a right to compensation for your suffering. The best way to receive compensation is by having sufficient evidence. Talk to an experienced attorney, like myself, get evidence from eye witnesses, take pictures and video evidence, and make sure that you document all the damages, such as medical or therapy bills. If DeFrancesco had taken these measures, she might’ve won her case! Stay tuned into our blog to learn more about personal injury lawsuits and hear more about cases that have taken a turn for the weird.
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J. Price McNamara


Losing my own brother, then my father and sister after long, disabling illnesses just a few months apart drove a career change for me. Before that experience, I never truly understood the place you’re in. I never understood the dramatic impact that receiving (or not receiving) the disability and life insurance benefits you paid for and counted on can have on your life especially when you need to focus on family and healing. What I experienced with my own family now drives the way I view my clients and my work, and I will never forget it!

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