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Justices let wrongful death suit proceed against Munster Church

August 13, 2018

A wrongful death suit brought against a Munster church by the family of a babysitter who died at the home of the church’s pastors will proceed to trial after the Indiana Supreme Court denied transfer last week.

All justices voted to deny transfer in Family Christian World, Inc. d/b/a Family Christian Center, Stephan “Steve” Munsey, Melodye J. Munsey, and Darryl Anthony Smith v. Vicki Olds, 45A04-1709-CT-2091, agreeing with an Indiana Court of Appeals decision earlier this year.

In its April decision, the appellate court affirmed the Lake Superior Court’s denial of the church’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the mother of Nikki Olds. The Valparaiso University student was found dead in a swimming pool in 2015 while she was babysitting Steve and Melodye Munsey’s granddaughter in their Schererville home.

The Munseys, who are senior pastors at Family Christian Center, had hired Olds to babysit on multiple occasions. Olds was not supervised at the time she died, according to the record, and was found floating face down and unresponsive.

Olds, a full-time student at Valparaiso University, was a member of FCC’s congregation. She filled out an IRS Form W-9 when she was hired by the church and received payment from FCC each time she babysat.

In their motion to dismiss, the Munseys argued that Olds was an employee, and that as such, the Worker’s Compensation Act was the exclusive remedy for claims arising from her death. The trial court, appellate court and high court all rejected that argument, however, finding Nikki to be an independent contractor for the Munseys because she worked irregular hours over the course of two months and had discretion whether to accept or reject babysitting jobs offered by FCC.

The suit was among 34 cases denied by the high court for the week ending August 10. The list of cases can be viewed here.

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