CROWN POINT — A civil court judge heard arguments Thursday on whether to toss out a wrongful death lawsuit filed against pastors Steve and Melodye Munsey of the Family Christian Center.
Vicki Walker, the mother of Domonique “Nikki” Smith, filed the lawsuit against the Munseys in November after her 18-year-old daughter was found drowned May 29, 2015, in a pool at the pastors' home in Schererville.
The mother alleges suspicious circumstances surrounded the investigation into her daughter's death. She further claims the Munseys were negligent in caring for her daughter, who was babysitting the pastors' grandchild at the time of her death.
Other defendants in the lawsuit include Family Christian World, the parent organization of the church, and Darryl Anthony Smith, the father of Domonique Smith.
The defendants seek to have the lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that Smith was employed by the church as a babysitter, and therefore the mother's complaints should be made to the Worker's Compensation Board of Indiana, the governmental body that has jurisdiction over disputes between workers and employers.
Philip E. Kalamaros, attorney for the pastors and their church, told Judge John R. Pera at Thursday's motion hearing that Smith worked as a babysitter on behalf of the church on four occasions before her death.
“We are not saying they have no remedy at all, but their remedy is through the worker's compensation board,” Kalamaros said.
Trent McCain, attorney for Walker, argued Smith worked as a contractor, not an employee, on behalf of the church.
He said the church had Smith complete tax documents commonly used in a business-contractor arrangement, and the church referred to Smith as a “vendor” in an internal church document.
Pera said he would review the attorneys' filings and make a decision on the issue at a later date.