Appellate Court Upholds $900K Damages Award in Case Where Televangelist Blamed Granddaughter for Her Own Rape

The Fourth Appellate District Court of Appeal decided that televangelist Jan Crouch’s behavior went beyond “grandmotherly scolding or irascible behavior,” as lawyers for the church she co-founded had argued. The Recorder/September 13, 2019

By Alaina Lancaster

A California appellate court upheld a $900,000 damages award that granddaughter of televangelist Jan Crouch was awarded for intentional infliction of emotional distress after Crouch blamed her for being drugged and raped by an employee of the church she ran.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal on Thursday decided that Crouch’s behavior went beyond “grandmotherly scolding or irascible behavior,” as lawyers for Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana Inc.—the church and televangelist network she co-founded with her husband Paul Crouch Sr.—had argued.

Carra Crouch sued TCC for the incident that occurred during a church-sponsored telethon in 2006, when she was 13 years old. When Carra and her mother told Crouch that a 30-year-old employee of the church drugged and raped her at a telethon the night before, the religious broadcaster reportedly asked Carra how she could be so stupid, and said “well, this is really your fault” and “you’re the one who let this happen,” according to the ruling written by Associate Justice Richard Fybel. The unanimous ruling was joined by Associate Justices Eileen Moore and David Thompson.

The court found that Crouch’s response sufficiently supported a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

“Flying into a tirade at a 13-year-old girl who had been drugged and raped and yelling at her that she was stupid and it was her fault is extreme and outrageous conduct that exceeds that bounds of decency tolerated in civilized community,” Fybel wrote. “Such conduct is not mere insults, indignities, petty oppressions or other trivialities. At age 13, Carra suffered a horrible, traumatic, and life-altering experience. Yelling at her that she was stupid and it was her fault was cruel, intolerable, and obviously certain to produce severe emotional harm.”

Crouch also acted in her official TCC capacity when she yelled at Carra, the court held. “Jan was a TCC officer and director with an ‘endless list of duties,’ was the go-to person at TCC, and was in charge of the Atlanta telethon,” according to the opinion. “Carra was raped by a TCC employee while in Atlanta for the telethon. Tawny took Carra to Jan because Jan had been in charge in Atlanta and had the power to do something.”

Crouch died May 31, 2016, about four years after the case first began. In 2017, an Orange County Superior Court jury handed Carra a $2 million verdict for the intentional infliction of emotional distress, which was later reduced by the court to $900,000 to account for damages TCC was not legally responsible for. 

Carra’s attorney David Keesling of Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig in Tulsa, Oklahoma said it wouldn’t shock him if TCC appealed the case, which has been “litigated to death.” 

“This was one that was so clear on its face that it didn’t require years and years of deliberation,” Keesling said. “I got the sense that opposing counsel was reading from a different record.” Keesling said the appellate “court stood up for someone in 2019 that Jane Crouch and Trinity should have stood up for in 2006.”

Carra has asserted that the rape and her grandmother’s reaction led to a troubled childhood and adult life, filled with risky behavior, self-harm and drug abuse. Keesling said that having a legal team that believed her helped Carra make positive changes. He reports that she has graduated with her Associate’s Degree and is on the honor roll in nursing school. “It made a difference for that jury to say that wasn’t your fault. It has truly changed the trajectory of her life,” he said.

TCC’s attorneys, which include Dykema Gossett’s  James Azadian and Jill Wheaton; Winters & King’s Michael King and Ted Nelson; and Enterprise Counsel Group’s Garrett M. Fahy did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.

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