Church member says pastor's blessing caused brain injury

A woman has filed a lawsuit after she said a Gwinnett County church pastor caused her traumatic brain injury.

Yvonne Byrd said she was injured when the pastor at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Norcross pushed her head during a blessing and she fell to the ground, hitting her head.

“He just put way too much force on Miss Byrd and caused her to lose her balance.  She hit her head and she lost consciousness,” attorney Chuck Clay said.

The accident happened in March 2017. 

“The pastor was going around and healing different people,” attorney Brian Mickelson said Friday. “She was singing and meditating on what he had said.”

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When it was her turn to be blessed, Byrd was knocked out cold, Mickelson said. She was treated at a local hospital and later received treatment at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, her attorneys said Friday.

Clay says Byrd suffered a mild yet 'traumatic' brain injury from which she still struggles to recover. He says she has experienced headaches and dizziness ever since, and has been in and out of hospitals.

Clay says the pastor did not deliberately mean to hurt his client; it was an accident. But he says so far, the church's insurance company has refused to cover Byrd's medical bills so she filed a lawsuit against the church and Bishop William Sheals.

Byrd said it’s been hard because in doing so she’s lost her church family. She said she was a member of the church choir for 15 years but no longer feels comfortable going there.

“The church was kind of her family. That has been the biggest tragedy of this whole thing. It happened at a place that was so near and dear to her heart,” Clay said.

Channel 2’s Berndt Petersen reached out to Sheals. The church office referred Petersen to an attorney, but he has not heard back.

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