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Ruling leads to $26M settlement in NAMB case

BOZEMAN, Mont. (BP) — A Montana judge’s summary judgement ruling has led to a $26 million insurance settlement in a quadriplegic man’s lawsuit against the North American Mission Board stemming from a 2009 auto accident.

Jeremy Vangsnes, who was 21 at the time of the July 2009 accident, was traveling with two of his brothers, Dan, then 24, and Ryan, 19, in an SUV driven by Scott Minear, 20.

The rollover crash, which left Jeremy Vangsnes paralyzed and with a brain injury, occurred on Interstate 90 near Belgrade, Mont.

The four men were based at Yellowstone National Park as part of a 10-week summer resort missions program of the North American Mission Board. The accident, at around 3:30 p.m. on July 21, 2009, occurred during a side trip to Glacier National Park for the Vangsneses to visit with an aunt, uncle and cousins.

The summary judgment ruling was issued by Judge Mike Salvagni of the 18th Judicial District for Gallatin County in Bozeman. The Associated Press on July 14 reported the ruling, which was filed on June 18.

In that ruling, the court found that it had been conclusively established that the driver of the SUV “was acting within the course and scope of his agency with NAMB at the time of the accident which caused Jeremy Vangsnes’ injuries” and that, therefore, NAMB could be held vicariously liable for the acts of the driver.

According to the personal injury law firm Maya Murphy, P.C., representing the Vangsneses, the settlement will allow the family “to hire 24-hour skilled nursing care for Jeremy Vangsnes and to buy a house that is more handicapped-accessible.”

Jeremy Vangsnes’ brothers and Scott Minear were hospitalized after the accident with various injuries and were continuing their recovery, according to a Baptist Press news report on Aug. 20, 2009.

BP reported that the North American Mission Board had set up a fund for the Vangsnes and Minear families. The home church of the Vangsneses, First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., also had established a special fund for the family. A fund also is accessible through the Caring Bridge website.

Mark and Kathy Vangsnes, Jeremy’s parents, remain members of First Baptist in Spartanburg, a church spokesman told Baptist Press July 17.

The parents of Scott Minear, Frank and Tammy Minear, were members of an Atlanta-area Southern Baptist congregation, Crosspointe Community Church in Roswell, at the time of the accident. BP could not confirm July 17 where the family now resides.

The three Vangsnes brothers and Minear were among 17 student resort missionaries stationed at Yellowstone that summer.

Jeremy Vangsnes had finished his junior year at Coastal Carolina University in Conway and was a competitive runner there.

The elder Vangsnes said in the August 2009 Baptist Press story that support from Southern Baptists -– from their home church, First Baptist Spartanburg, to Baptists in Montana — had been “unreal. Right now, we’re staying with a local family only five minutes from Jeremy’s facility. The Baptist body of Christ has just overwhelmed us. … We believe that God is upholding and sustaining us, and the prayer going up for us is amazing.”

Scott Minear’s mother, Tammy, told BP at the time, “To even begin to describe the body of Christ at work during this is impossible…. We’re awestruck. How quickly so many people from so many different avenues — the Southern Baptist Convention, NAMB, local churches — responded. Churches here are ministering to us with their presence, with food, drinks, places to stay.

“All the prayers have been so felt…. [W]e have been constantly aware of people praying for us. We feel like we’re wrapped up not only in God’s arms, but in the arms of people around the world, who are praying for us,” Tammy Minear said.