Victoria Osteen, the wife and co-pastor with her husband Joel Osteen of the megachurch Lakewood in Houston Texas, is on trial this week in Houston, Texas facing charges that she assaulted Sharon Brown, a Continental Airlines flight attendant on a 2005 flight from Houston to Vail, Colorado. The Lakewood Church draws approximately 40,000 people to Sunday services, with millions more watching on television. Ms. Brown testified that after a spill on Ms. Osteen’s first class seat was not cleaned quickly enough for Ms. Osteen’s liking, she angrily approached Ms. Brown and pushed her against a restroom door, then elbowed her in the left breast.
Ms. Osteen was escorted off the plane, accompanied by her husband and their two children. The Osteens both denied under oath that an attack had occurred; however, they did pay a $3,000 fine assessed by the Federal Aviation Administration for interference with crew members, “to put the incident behind [them.]”
Generally speaking, an assault is defined as a willful attempt to inflict injury upon the person of another, when coupled with a present ability to do so. Additionally, any intentional display of force such as would give the victim reason to fear or expect bodily harm constitutes an assault.
Ms. Brown’s lawsuit for the physical assault seeks an apology and punitive damages equal to 10% of Ms. Osteen’s net worth. Punitive damages, (unlike compensatory damages, which are designed to compensate a person for his or her injuries) are generally only awarded when the conduct of the defendant is so outrageous that it is deemed to “shock the conscience” of the average person. Punitive damages are, as the name suggests, assessed to punish or make an example of the defendant for their malicious and wicked conduct. It remains to be seen if a jury will find that Ms. Osteen’s conduct rose to the vicious level to justify a punitive damages award.
If you have been charged with a New York assault, or any other crime, contact the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel online or at (914) 428-7386 for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights and options.