A jury which in August ordered the Christian Science church to pay $US5.2 million ($NZ9.6 million) in damages in the diabetes death of an 11-year-old boy followed this by adding a further $US9 million in punitive damages.
A juror told reporters after that decision that the issue was not one of freedom of religion, but whether the boy had any choice in determining medical care which could have saved his life.
The boy’s mother had turned to the faith healing teachings of the church instead of traditional medicine when he fell ill.
The Hennepin County District Court jury had considered the punitive portion of the damages for several days after the actual damages award against members of the church, following a trial lasting five weeks.
The case involved the 1989 death of Ian Lundman of Independence, Minnesota, who succumbed after a sudden four-day bout with juvenile onset diabetes.
The boy’s father, Douglas, sued the boy’s mother — his ex-wife Kathy McKown — and her current husband William, as well as a nursing home affiliated with the First Church of Christ, Scientist, as well as a nurse, a church practitioner and another church official, charging negligence.
Lundman’s lawyers said it was the first US civil action involving a death and the church to go to trial.