Village Church rebuts sex abuse liability, $1M claim

by Diana Chandler, posted Monday, August 26, 2019 (25 days ago)

BP file photo.
FLOWER MOUND, Texas (BP) -- The Village Church is not liable for damages suffered by a woman who alleges sexual abuse at age 11 by a then Village youth pastor, the church asserts in its initial answer to the woman's lawsuit.

The Flower Mound, Texas, church also challenges the plaintiff's claim of more than $1 million in damages, citing chapters 41 and 84 of the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code, as well as the Texas Charitable Immunity Act.

The plaintiff, identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe One, accuses The Village Church of negligently breaching the church's duty to care for her, failing to "implement reasonable policies and procedures to detect and prevent the sexual abuse of Jane Doe One by (Matthew) Tonne," and failing "to adhere to the policies and procedures it had in place at the time" to prevent the alleged abuse.

In its response filed Aug. 23 in Dallas County Court, The Village Church "generally denies each and every allegation in Plaintiff's Original Petition and demands strict proof by a preponderance of the credible evidence."

Alleged perpetrator Tonne has a Sept. 4 trial date in Dallas County District Court on a related charge of indecent contact with a child. Tonne has been out of jail on a $25,000 bond since Jan. 9, and his initial court date of Jan. 29 has been rescheduled 12 times, according to court documents.

If the charges the plaintiff alleges are proven to have occurred, The Village Church said Aug. 23, then the church "is not liable for the intentional criminal acts of its employee as these acts would be outside of the course and scope of the employment of said employee, pursuant to Section 41.005 of the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code."

Chapters 84 and Chapter 41, Sections 41.005 and 41.007, of the referenced code are accessible at www.statutes.capitol.texas.gov.

The church also cites the Fifth, Eighth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution in arguing against exemplary or punitive damages, as well as Article 1, Sections 3, 13 and 19 of the Texas Constitution.

Represented by Middlebrook and Goodspeed, PLLC, the church urges the court to dismiss the lawsuit.

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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