A St. Louis woman is suing an Evangelical church over injuries she sustained when a fellow member caught the Holy Spirit and lost control of herself.
Cheryl Jones filed a complaint in December that while visiting the Disciple Fellowship Christian Church in East St. Louis, another member received the Holy Spirit and fell backwards, causing her injury, according to ABC News.
In the complaint, Jones mentioned that there were no ushers or other members to assist the lady who became overcome by the spirit. She blames the church for failing to protect her.
Jones said that when a woman received the spirit, she fell backwards, knocking many people back who eventually landed on her. She hit her head, neck, back and buttocks and was rendered unconscious, according to Courthousenews.com.
She said that she continues to suffer from physical pain, as well as mental and emotional distress. Jones is suing the church for carelessness and negligence and asking for $50,000 to pay for medical and health care for her injuries.
Jones said in her complaint that the church usually has two ushers to assist people who lose control when they catch the spirit, but no one was there to assist her.
"They should have either warned Cheryl and people like her of the potential dangers- especially if they're not going to have deacons or parishioners to help these people when they fall," said Brian Millikan, Jones' attorney.
Millikan added that people falling while being overcome by the Holy Spirit is something that happens often in the church.
Jonathan Turley, a tort law professor at George Washington University, told ABC News that when people are filled with the Holy Spirit, they are worked up into such a frenzy that they may lose their response to risk. He poses the question of how much the church is responsible for anticipating these spiritual outbursts, which can lead to injury.
"The whole idea of being touched by the Holy Spirit is to surrender yourself. In doing so, these are people that are surrendering themselves to collapsing involuntary," Turley said. "These churches tend to treat this response as the Holy Ghost has taken away the power of the individuals to even stand."
There have been many cases like this in courts, called "swoon-and-fall" cases, according to On Point News. Plaintiffs usually allege that the church failed to protect them from injury when they "swoon" during an altar call.
The Michigan Court of Appeals recently upheld a $40,000 jury award after finding that it is the church's duty to provide ushers to catch a "swooning" congregant after she fell backwards.
In 2008, a woman in Oregon tried to sue her church for not providing multiple people to catch a congregant "who was going to be blessed or slain in the spirit."
Shin Lim Kim was a catcher, but when she tried to catch another member who caught the Holy Spirit, she injured her spinal vertebra, according to On Point News. She complained the church was negligent in not providing multiple catchers nor discussing safe catching tips.
Kim tried to sue for $125,000, but the courts ruled in favor of the church, finding that they were not liable for Kim's injuries.