HOUSTON (AP) - Jurors began deliberations Thursday in a lawsuit alleging that the wife of megachurch pastor Joel Osteen physically and verbally abused a flight attendant-a claim rejected by Victoria Osteen's lawyer as a made-up story concocted to land a courtroom payday.
An attorney for Continental Airlines flight attendant Sharon Brown had asked a jury to award his client at least $405,000 for physical and mental pain suffered the alleged attack before the start of a 2005 flight from Houston to Vail, Colo.
Brown claims Victoria Osteen became so upset when a spill on the armrest of her first-class seat was not quickly cleaned up that she threw Brown against a bathroom door and elbowed her in the left breast in an attempt to rush into the cockpit. Brown said the attack was so traumatic that it left her unable to work for five days and damaged her religious beliefs.
Victoria Osteen and her husband, who also was aboard the flight, testified and denied Brown's allegations. Three first-class passengers and a pilot aboard testified Wednesday they never saw or heard anything that indicated Victoria Osteen assaulted Brown.
Another flight attendant, Maria Johnson, supported Brown's claims. Both flight attendants testified they had to block the cockpit door to prevent Victoria Osteen from getting inside.
Brown's side earlier sought an apology and punitive damages amounting to 10 percent of Victoria Osteen's net worth as part of her lawsuit. Victoria Osteen's attorney, Rusty Hardin, has declined to discuss her finances. It was unclear what percentage of her net worth the $405,000 might be.
Victoria Osteen told jurors she went up to Brown after no one helped her clean up the spill. She said it was Brown who became angry during their discussion. Victoria Osteen denied ever touching Brown or trying to get into the cockpit.
Hardin tried to cast doubt Brown suffered any physical or mental injuries. Under cross-examination, Brown acknowledged that doctors found no physical injuries on her and she delayed getting psychiatric treatment.
Claudia Hall, a former Continental flight attendant, testified by video deposition she was falsely accused by Brown of hitting and pushing her into the bathroom wall of a plane in November 1995.
The Osteens are co-pastors of Lakewood Church, which draws about 42,000 people each week for services. Joel Osteen's weekly television address is broadcast in the U.S. and internationally and his books are sold around the globe.