A jury has awarded a Worland family $200,000 in damages in a case that a lawyer said involved the LDS Church "spying" on his client.
The church, however, said its insurance company handled the claim and the legal process.The lawsuit said Chris Berryman was injured Dec. 2, 1991, when a car driven by an LDS missionary backed into her and knocked her into a parked car in the Worland Post Office lot. She suffered neurological damage to her right side, said Bob Krause, a lawyer with Spence, Moriarity and Schuster of Jackson.
The missionary had failed to clean the snow from his rear window and did not see Berryman, Krause said.
Friday, the Worland jury agreed and awarded Berryman $180,000 in compensatory damages, and awarded her husband and three children $5,000 each for "the loss of companionship of (their) wife and mother," Krause said.
Krause said Berryman's injury was the crux of the case.
"She has neurologic damage to her right arm that causes a lot of pain," he said. "The more she uses it, the more pain" there is.
"Originally, the church sent her to a doctor for a second opinion," he said. "That doctor also said she had neurologic problems related to the accident. But they refused to accept that doctor's opinion."
The church then resorted to what Krause termed "spying."
"A big part of the trial is that they went out and hired a private investigator and a big surveillance company out of Chicago to spy on her" this summer, Krause said. "They were trying to find something they could use against her instead of trying to settle the case. They went to great extremes to try to dig up something against her.
"The worst part was that most of the videotapes they shot were while she was in her back yard," Krause said. "The jury apparently agreed with us that there was nothing inconsistent with what Chris testified to and what was on the tapes."
A spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Thursday the Worland, Wyo., claim was administered and the trial handled by the church's insurance carrier, Kemper National Insurance Co., out of its Denver office.
Kemper, through its subsidiary, Lumberman's Mutual Casualty, provided the claims adjusters and attorneys for the case, said Don LeFevre of the church's public affairs office.
When Kemper National Insurance Co., Denver, was contacted by the Deseret News, a woman who answered the telephone said the company "has no comment at this time." She said she was not at liberty to say who asked her to make the statement.
Lumberman's Mutual Casualty, also located in Denver, was also contacted for comment in response to Krause's comments. The newspaper was told no one was available in the Denver office for comment and was referred to the company's customer relations office in Long Grove, Ill.
A woman who answered the phone there said she would refer the call to two public-relations representatives for the firm, but they have not returned calls since Thursday.