Man Sues Chicago Church After Falling Gargoyle Kills Fiancée

Is church responsible for tragic gargoyle accident?

Second Presbyterian Church Chicago. Photo: Andrew Jameson, via Wikimedia Commons.

Second Presbyterian Church Chicago.
Photo: Andrew Jameson, via Wikimedia Commons.

A Chicago man is suing a historic Presbyterian church after his 34-year-old fiancée died when a portion of a stone gargoyle fell from the church’s façade, striking her in the head and killing her, reports Courthouse News.

Lance Johnson believes the church is responsible for his girlfriend Sarah Bean’s death, and has sued the Presbytery of Chicago and Second Presbyterian Church of Chicago on behalf of Bean and their nine-year-old son. The couple were raising two boys together, the fourth grader and a high school freshman.

The deadly incident took place September 4th, as Bean walked down the sidewalk in front of the church. According to the complaint, “a piece of decorative metal broke free from the exterior wall of the building and fell. The aforementioned piece of decorative metal struck a stone ornamental gargoyle extending from the exterior wall of the building and caused a portion of the stone ornamental gargoyle to break off and fall.”

The falling stone hit Bean in the head, and, tragically, she died from the blunt force trauma of the impact. Johnson is seeking wrongful death damages in excess of $100,000.

The Gothic-style building dates to 1874, and has a history of failing building inspections between 2007 and 2011, although it subsequently passed in early 2012 and March 2013. Johnson contends that the church “knew that the exterior of the building was in disrepair, was unsafe, and imminently dangerous, and was dangerous to people.”

According to Johnson’s complaint, “the piece of decorative metal on the exterior wall of the defendant’s building was rusted and in disrepair,” and “the masonry, including the bricks, mortar, stones and ornamental objects, on the exterior wall of the defendant’s building lacked structural integrity and was in disrepair.”

Following the incident, the church has enclosed the building façade in protective scaffolding and has begun renovations.

A statement posted on the Presbyterian Church website reads “The Session and Congregation of Second Presbyterian Church express our deep sorrow at the death of Sarah Bean, who died tragically as a result of an incident that occurred in front of the church at noon on Thursday. We send our heartfelt sympathy and continual prayers for her family and friends.”

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