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Most church-goers expect their place of worship to be a source of healing and spiritual renewal. But one Georgia woman claims her pastor's blessing did far more harm than good when it caused her traumatic brain injury. Now, the woman is suing the church and the pastor as she continues to suffer from the effects of the incident.
Congregant "Slammed the Back of Her Skull"
Yvonne Byrd arrived at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Norcross, GA early on March 5, 2017, to sing in the choir. Bishop William Sheals, 71, began blessing congregants during the second service, and when it was her turn to receive a blessing, Byrd says Sheals "pushed her forehead with such force, that it caused her to fall backward and slam the back of her skull against the hard floor." Other members received their blessing via a simple touch to the head.
Byrd's attorneys say that the blessing knocked her unconscious, although it took some time for other church members to realize she was on the ground and not moving. She had to be treated at a local hospital and spent several weeks at rehab facility. Byrd, a member of the megachurch for 15 years, says she is still recovering from the mild traumatic brain injury.
Pastor "Reckless and Negligent"
Byrd's lawsuit claims that the Hopewell church "had a duty to adequately supervise and train its employees, including Defendant Sheals, as to appropriate and safe physical contact with congregants during church services." It also states that Sheals was reckless and negligent when he gave Byrd the brain-injuring blessing.
Her lawsuit is seeking an unspecified amount of damages for personal injuries, medical expenses, and permanent physical and psychological damages. Neither the church nor the pastor seems to have commented on the lawsuit, except to say that they have not received any formal information on the matter.
Just because someone doesn't intend to inflict harm doesn't mean they shouldn't be held accountable for the result of their actions. If you were injured by someone -- church-related or not -- speak with a personal injury attorney to discuss your options for compensation.