Missouri church, nonprofit settle sex abuse lawsuit

Monday, January 24, 2011 | 8:33 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — A western Missouri woman whose parents were sued by a church and a nonprofit after she claimed sexual abuse by a man who worked for both groups has settled the lawsuit that led to the unusual counterclaim.

The woman's attorney, Rebecca Randles, confirmed Monday that an out-of-court settlement was reached last week in the lawsuit against New Life Bible Church of Easton, an evangelical church in St. Joseph. The claim also named OATS Inc., a statewide nonprofit based in Columbia that provides transportation for rural residents, the elderly and people with disabilities.

Randles said terms of the settlement are confidential.

The initial lawsuit filed in February 2010 followed an October 2009 guilty plea by Michael J. Landy. He received a sentence of seven years in prison and five years of probation for abusing a girl over a four year period beginning when she was 13. All but 120 days of the sentence were suspended.

Landy was an OATS regional director and also worked at the church as a church youth minister. His victim, who is now a 29-year-old mother of four, claimed that some of the abuse occurred on property owned by the nonprofit between 1995 and 1999, while she was a teenager.

Both lawsuits named the victim, her parents and others, but The Associated Press generally does not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse.

The church and OATS argued in court documents that the woman's parents should be held partially responsible because they breached their duty by negligently putting their daughter under Landy's supervision.

In September, a Buchanan County Circuit Court judge agreed to add the woman's parents and father-in-law as third-party defendants.

An attorney for the church declined to discuss the settlement. So did OATS' executive director Linda Yaeger, who was Landy's direct supervisor for most of the 34 years he worked for the transportation service.

"It's settled, and they're happy to have it behind them," said New Life Bible Church attorney Allison Confer.

A St. Louis-based support group for victims of church sex abuse responded to the lawsuit against the woman's parents by publicly criticizing the church and handing out fliers to its neighbors in St. Joseph. Group spokeswoman Barbara Dorris called the countersuit a "mean-spirited legal defense move."

Randles had previously said the parents left their daughter in Landy's care while they traveled on church mission trips and remain devout followers of the church.

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