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Home / Verdicts & Settlements / False claim of abuse brings settlement from counselor

False claim of abuse brings settlement from counselor

An unlicensed religious counselor alleged to have led a teen in his care to believe he’d been abused settled for an undisclosed amount.

James T. Ward of Fenton and his son Noah alleged that Joseph E. Bird of Pleasant Hope “negligently and falsely represented” to Noah that he had received visions from God that his father had sexually abused him as a young boy.

The counseling was provided in 2017 while the younger Ward, who is now 24, was a student at Cayman’s House of Hope, a residential home for troubled teens. The school was not named as a defendant.

Randy Cowherd of Haden Cowherd & Bullock said his client is on the autism spectrum and had been a previous victim of sexual abuse at a residential facility, making him particularly vulnerable to harm and manipulation.

After leaving Cayman’s, Noah told a licensed counselor at another residential facility of the alleged abuse, which triggered mandatory reporting of the discredited claim.

Defense attorney Cara Rose of Franke Schultz & Mullen declined to comment, citing the confidentiality provision.

Cowherd said the potential claim was not appreciated until nearly five years after the counseling sessions. However, Bird was not a licensed health care provider, so the general five-year statute of limitations, rather than the two-year statute of limitations for medical negligence claims, applied to the lawsuit.

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Confidential settlement

False claim of abuse

Venue: Polk County Circuit Court

Case Number/Date: 22PO-CC0010/Nov. 2, 2022

Judge: James Hackett

Insurer: Philadelphia Mutual Insurance Co. (for Bird)

Caption: James Ward and Noah Ward, by his guardian James Ward v. Joseph Bird

Plaintiffs’ Attorney: Randy Cowherd, Haden Cowherd & Bullock, Springfield

Defendant’s Attorney: Cara Rose, Franke Schultz & Mullen, Springfield