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Muncie church did not invade on grieving couple’s privacy

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A church that issued a press release and held a press conference following the sudden death of a baby boy was found to not have interfered with the parents’ reasonable expectation of solitude and seclusion.  

The Indiana Court of Appeals absolved Westminster Presbyterian Church of Muncie of all the claims brought by the Chengs after their infant son died while in the care of a babysitter recommended by the church’s associate pastor. In Westminster Presbyterian Church of Muncie, an Indiana non-profit corp. v. Yonghong Cheng and Hongjun Niu, husband and wife, as parents of Matthew Cheng, deceased, 18A02-1210-CT-791, the appeals court affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded with instructions for the trial court to enter summary judgment in favor of Westminster on all counts.

A trial court partially granted Westminster’s motion for summary judgment on the Chengs’ suit against the church for wrongful death, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. While the lower court granted the motion for the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, it denied the motion for the wrongful death and invasion of privacy.

Westminster appealed on the grounds the trial court erred. The Court of Appeals agreed.

In its reversal of the wrongful-death claim, the COA used the factors set forth in Webb v. Jarvis, 575 N.E. 2d 992 (Ind. 1991) and concluded the church did not owe a duty to the Chengs as a matter of law.

Also, in reversing the invasion-of-privacy claims, the appeals court found Westminster did not receive any commercial value by using the Chengs’ name in a press release.

“Under a Webb v. Jarvis analysis, we find that there was no duty of care as a matter of law in this case, when a pastor recommended a babysitter to a parishioner and the child died while in the babysitter’s care,” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the court. “We also find that when the church issued a press release about the death that included the family and child’s names, there was no invasion of privacy because the church did not intrude upon the family’s physical seclusion or profit off of the family’s name, and no intentional infliction of emotional distress because the conduct did not rise to the level of outrageous.”
 

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  1. For many years this young man was "family" being my cousin's son. Then he decided to ignore my existence and that of my daughter who was very hurt by his actions after growing up admiring, Jason. Glad he is doing well, as for his opinion, if you care so much you wouldn't ignore the feelings of those who cared so much about you for years, Jason.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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