An Orange County jury Monday awarded $2 million for past and future damages to the granddaughter of a founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, finding that her grandmother acted “outrageously” to allegations that the plaintiff was molested when she was 13 by a TBN employee.
Carra Crouch will only collect $900,000 of the verdict because jurors, who deliberated for about 7 1/2 hours over three days, found that Trinity Christian Center, the Santa Ana-based nonprofit that runs the evangelical Christian broadcasting giant, is responsible for 45 percent of the damages.
Crouch’s father was not held liable and 35 percent was assigned to her mother, Tawny.
Though Carra Crouch had sought $6 million in damages, her attorney, David Keesling, said they are “completely satisfied with their (jurors’) judgment.”
Attorney Mike King, who represented Trinity in the trial, said the verdict would be appealed.
Keesling noted that King had said during closing arguments that Trinity would accept whatever verdict was handed down.
Jurors rejected Carra Crouch’s claim that her grandmother, Jan Crouch, had a legal duty as a “mandatory reporter” of child sexual abuse to report her allegations to authorities.
Trinity, however, was found liable for Jan Crouch’s “outrageous” behavior when her granddaughter and the girl’s mother brought the abuse claims to the Trinity co-founder’s attention.
Carra Crouch said her grandmother yelled at her and blamed her, saying she put herself in a situation to be molested.
“She blamed, shamed and then branded and castigated” her granddaughter, who was vulnerable at the time due to her age, Keesling said.
“She did everything but act like a grandmother” in the situation, which occurred 11 years ago, Keesling said.
The lawsuit was filed five years ago, and the plaintiff’s grandmother — who co-founded TBN with her husband — died a year ago. One of their sons, Matt Crouch, now runs Trinity.
Carra Crouch, who works in a doctor’s office and hopes to go to nursing school, suffers from post-traumatic distress due to the way the molestation allegations were handled, her attorney said.
She bounced her leg nervously as the verdicts were read, telling reporters afterward that she found the moment “extremely nerve-wracking.”
“This has consumed my entire adult life,” she said. “And it came down to that moment.”
Crouch, now 24, added it was “exciting” that Trinity would be “held accountable.”
She said that she was an atheist until she was 21 due to the way her allegations were handled, but now considers herself Christian and spiritual.
Crouch said she brought the allegations to the attention of her grandmother in April 2006 after she returned from a TBN “Praise-a-Thon” fundraiser in Atlanta.
Carra Crouch had been out on a hotel room balcony smoking and drinking with a man before she went back into the room and passed out. She alleged in her lawsuit that she must have been drugged.
Carra Crouch claimed she tried to fend off the man and ended up sleeping on the floor, but when she woke up, she felt she had been sexually assaulted, according to a statement that she and her mother worked on after the incident, King said in his closing argument.
Keesling argued that Jan Crouch sought to cover up the allegations to avoid “bad PR.” King argued there was no evidence presented at trial to prove that claim.
King also argued that Carra Crouch and her mother asked Jan Crouch to fire the employee but keep Carra’s name out of it, which she did.
The agreement was for the man to leave the job and keep the incident to himself, but when he filed for unemployment, Trinity officials accused him of “sexual harassment,” Keesling said.
When the man was questioned in a deposition for the trial, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, Keesling said. He was never charged with a crime, the attorney said.
–City News Service
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