(John Disney/Daily Report)
By the time the Rev. Douglas Wayne Myers made his way to Lake County, he had faced allegations of sexual misconduct at churches he served in Maryland and Alabama.
The minister was hired by the Florida Baptist Convention Inc. to start churches in Florida. On Saturday, a Tavares jury returned a $12.5 million verdict in favor of a man who said he was molested by Myers as an 11-year-old.
The victim, now a college student in his 20s, was identified in the lawsuit only by the initials C.E.
In May 2012, a previous Lake Circuit Court jury found the Florida Baptist Convention responsible for abuse by Myers. The damages phase of the trial started Jan. 13.
“This was a long journey for this young man who suffered because the institutions he trusted failed to protect him. In light of the evidence presented, the jury surely understood the devastating impacts on this young man,” said plaintiffs attorney Ron Weil, a partner at Weil Quaranta McGovern in Miami.
C.E. met Myers at the Bay Street Baptist Church, a 1,000-member congregation in Eustis. He participated in the youth group twice a week before migrating to a new congregation that Myers helped establish, Triangle Community Church in Eustis.
A 2008 amended complaint alleged Myers assaulted the plaintiff starting in July 2005.
“Myers would pick up C.E. at his residence for the purpose of escorting C.E. to church functions and volunteer work at Triangle,” the lawsuit stated. “Such assaults continued unabated for approximately six months.”
C.E.’s mother and grandmother learned of the assaults in February 2006 and notified the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. Myers pleaded guilty to lewd and lascivious battery in 2007 and was sentenced to seven years in prison. State records show Myers has been released from prison and is listed as a sex offender living in Prince Frederick, Md.
The lawsuit charged sexual assault, battery, intentional affliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring, negligent supervision and detention.
The jury awarded $2.5 million in damages against the church organization for harm to the plaintiff in the past and another $10 million for damages for future pain and suffering.
“Defendants knew or should have known through the exercise of reasonable diligence that Myers was unsuitable to act as pastor and was not suitable to mentor, counsel or minister young children,” the complaint stated.
The lawsuit said the victim is in psychotherapy to deal with suicide ideation and night terrors.