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James River Church Ordered to Pay $22.5M for Ozark Campus Crash Lawsuit

A Christian County Jury has directed James River Church to pay $22.5 million in damages to Cooper Heishman, a student at James River College, who was struck by a car driven by an 18-year-old woman, Alyssa Temple, on the night of January 23, 2019.

James River Church Lawsuit Explained

Cooper Heishman, along with a friend, was returning after a church event and was walking back to his home when the accident happened. Cooper Heishman suffered major injuries to his brain, head, lungs, sternum, right tibia, and right heel. His friend was also injured, though his injuries were not serious.

Cooper Heishman and his attorney, Kansas City-based Aaron Woods, in their lawsuit claimed that the road, which was owned by the church, did not have proper lighting and sidewalk, and this was negligence on the part of the church. The lawsuit claimed that Cooper Heishman suffered progressive problems even after his wounds were healed.

The lawsuit went to trial and came before Judge Jessica Kruse, a panel of jurors who, after a seven-day trial, ruled that James River Church was 85% responsible for the injuries which Cooper Heishman suffered because of the accident and he was only 15% responsible. As per the court records, the 18-year-old female driver whose vehicle hit in a separate suit had a settlement of $100,000.

Cooper Heishman and another friend, Zachary Reimer, were walking from the church to their Embassy apartment at 9:50 p.m. when they were struck by a Chrysler Town and Country Minivan. The incident happened in 2021 when the church authorities allowed female drivers to drive their vehicles on the church road but men were asked to walk to their destination. The rule was enforced because of a paucity of parking space.

Post the accident, the church made amends and added lighting and a sidewalk. Cooper Heishman was a student of James River College when the accident happened. The lawsuit also said that there has been a history of near misses in the past also and the church had commissioned plans to install lighting and sidewalks on the church roads but the plans never materialized.

On its part, James River Church Inc. had filed a petition asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit contending that the lawsuit could not prove that the church was reckless or negligent on its part.

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Manoj Nair

Manoj Nair: With a decade of news writing across various media platforms, Manoj is a seasoned professional. His dual role as an English teacher underscores his command over communication. He adeptly covers Politics, Technology, Crypto, and more, reflecting a broad and insightful perspective that engages and informs diverse audiences.

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