A Pierce County Superior Court judge yesterday refused to release the insurance company for the Community Chapel and Bible Training Center from liability in pending litigation against the church.
However, Judge Kelley Arnold also said he would reconsider his ruling if the American Casualty Co. of Reading, Pa. can prove it should not be held liable.
Bruce Winchell, the insurance company's attorney, declined to reveal what his next action would be.
American Casualty sought in the hearing to be freed from liability for emotional harm in a civil suit brought by Carol and Ira Gabrielson against Donald Barnett, the pastor of Community Chapel and Bible Training Center, and Jack McDonald, the former pastor of the church's Tacoma satellite.
The Gabrielson suit alleges counselor and pastor malpractice, assault, battery and false imprisonment and loss of consortium. The Gabrielsons have since divorced.
In court, Winchell maintained his company's coverage of bodily injury does not cover emotional harm arising out of alleged sexual misconduct by parties insured by the company.
In the suit, Carol Gabrielson alleges sexual misconduct by McDonald because he misused his role as counselor to manipulate her into having sex with him.
She also alleges Barnett's teachings encouraged married church members to form intimate attachments with others and that seductions and marital breakups resulted. Barnett's own example and theology in essence validated McDonald's behavior, the suit claims.
Gabrielson also says she was assaulted while being ejected by security guards from Community Chapel in Burien.
Attorneys representing Gabrielson, Barnett and Community Chapel appeared in court together to argue against the insurance company's request.
Daniel Hannula, an attorney representing Gabrielson, claimed the insurance company's coverage of bodily injury clearly includes emotional injury which arises from a physical injury. In his client's case, emotional injury arose as a consequence of induced sexual contact and also false imprisonment, Hannula said.
Several other civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault and ministerial malpractice have been filed in King County against Community Chapel, some of its elders and pastor Donald Barnett.
American Casualty is expected to seek release from liability in those cases as well.
Meanwhile, Community Chapel and the Gabrielsons were involved in another Pierce County Superior Court hearing yesterday before Judge Gary Steiner.
Attorney Rodney Hollenbeck sought to have his client Barnett and Barnett's wife, Barbara, dismissed from the Gabrielson case and to keep the pastor's pretrial testimony on his personal sex life sealed. Hollenbeck also asked the court to declare certain parts of Barnett's testimony off-limits at the Gabrielson trial, claiming it was irrelevant.
Hollenbeck asked the court to strike from the court record the affidavit of a psychiatrist, Philip Lindsay, claiming it was conjectural and speculative.
Lindsay interviewed Gabrielson and two other women who are suing Barnett and Community Chapel. According to Hollenbeck, the affidavit claims Barnett and Jack McDonald exhibited a common seduction technique.
For lack of time, attorney Hannula was unable to argue against Hollenbeck's request. The hearing was continued until Monday.