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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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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