JACKSONVILLE (FBW)—Attorneys for the Florida Baptist Convention Tuesday indicated they are “confident” a judgment by a Lake County jury to award $12.5 million to a man who was molested by a former church-planting pastor in the state will be overturned on appeal.
“That confidence is based, in large part, on the jury’s express finding that Myers was an independent pastor who was not hired, employed or supervised by the Convention,” Gary Yeldell, the Florida Baptist Convention’s attorney-of-record, stated.
The jury reached its conclusion Jan. 18, after a six-day trial on the issue of damages.
In June 2012 the Florida Baptist Convention filed two post-trial motions in the case seeking reversal of an “inconsistent” May 17 jury verdict that found it liable for sex abuse committed by Douglas W. Myers.
Myers, 64, was found guilty and in 2012 completed serving a seven-year sentence for molesting a 13-year-old in 2005 while Myers was pastor of Triangle Community Church in Eustis.
A prior judge ruled that liability and damages had to be tried separately.
After a two-week trial in May 2012, the jury found Lake County Baptist Association and Bay Street Baptist Church at least partially at fault although each party had previously made a financial settlement with the plaintiffs.
In a statement published in June 2012, John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, had called the motions “perplexing” but indicated “the good news is that the jury found that the church planter/pastor was never an employee of the Florida Baptist Convention.”
Sullivan added: “regardless of the outcome of the motions—or the likely appeal to the appellate courts—we cannot let this case hinder our efforts to support church planting efforts in our state.”
An argument made in the January 2014 case for liability directed attention to the Convention because of a grant to the Lake County Baptist Association for church planting—and the listing of the churches in a Florida Baptist Convention Annual and among new church plants in articles supplied to the Florida Baptist Witness by the Florida Baptist Convention. Both churches Myers planted are now defunct.
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