HOUSTON (AP) - The wife of megachurch pastor Joel Osteen did not assault a flight attendant in an angry tirade over a stain on her first-class seat, a civil jury unanimously ruled Thursday.
The jurors rejected the claims in a lawsuit filed by Continental Airlines flight attendant Sharon Brown, who had been seeking at least $405,000 for actual damages-physical and mental pain as a result of an attack she alleged took place before the start of a December 2005 flight from Houston to Vail, Colo.
Brown claimed Victoria Osteen got so upset when a spill on her first-class seat's armrest was not quickly cleaned up that she threw the flight attendant against a bathroom door and elbowed her in the left breast while attempting to rush the cockpit.
Victoria Osteen, the co-pastor of Houston's popular Lakewood Church, testified no such incident took place, as did her husband and other first-class passengers. Victoria Osteen's lawyer dismissed Brown's lawsuit as a made-up story concocted to land a courtroom payday.
Lakewood Church 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.
In his closing argument, Rusty Hardin, Victoria Osteen's attorney, described the incident as a verbal dispute, and labeled Brown's claims that she suffered injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder a "sacrilege" and a "blasphemy."
Hardin questioned Brown's motives for filing the lawsuit, telling jurors if an assault had taken place and the flight attendant had truly wanted Victoria Osteen to be held accountable, she would have sought criminal charges.
"If your motives are pure, that's where you go first," he said. "If you want to hold her responsible and not look to line your pockets and hit the lottery then you go to law enforcement. She didn't do that."
In his closing argument, Reginald McKamie, Brown's attorney, told jurors that because of her status as a religious leader, Victoria Osteen felt she had "favor from God." That led her to believe she was above reproach for humiliating and assaulting his client, he said.