A man who, as a child, was sexually abused by a Seattle Catholic school official has won a $6.4 million in court, one of the largest such awards in state history.
The jury at King County Courthouse found the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a worldwide Catholic order of priests, guilty of ignoring the plaintiff’s sex-abuse complaints when he attended St. Benedict School in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood.
“The Oblates tried to point the finger at everyone except themselves, but the jury didn’t accept this and rightly held them accountable for their actions,” said Michael Pfau, an attorney for the plaintiff, in a statement. “The evidence was overwhelming that this religious order was more concerned with protecting its reputation and avoiding scandal than doing the right thing and protecting children.”
The plaintiff — identified as “S.O.” — testified that he was abused on a weekly basis between 1961 and 1964 by Daniel Adamson, a former teacher and principal at the school, who was not a member of the clergy. The plaintiff said he asked the Oblate pastor, Father Henry Conrad, twice for help but was ignored.
The plaintiff eventually dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Marines to go to Vietnam, which plaintiff’s attorney Darrell Cochran said he did “essentially as a death wish.” After surviving 700 days of combat in some of Vietnam’s harshest jungles, he tried moving on with his life by getting married and having kids.
“But he was still trying to deal with not only the sex abuse, but the memory of all these horrible deaths in Vietnam,” Cochran said.
It wasn’t until an invitation to a St. Benedict’s reunion prompted anxiety attacks in the plaintiff that he decided to talk about the abuse and do something about it, Cochran said.
In 2010, he filed the lawsuit against both the Oblate priests and the Seattle Archdiocese, which owned the school at the time. Last year the archdiocese settled for $500,000.
Two other former students of Adamson, who said they had not known each other either before or after attending the school, testified that they also had been sexually abused. One said when he told an Oblate priest about the abuse, the priest told him to be quiet about it or he would go to hell.
Adamson, a single adult who lived in his parents’ basement, would invite students over for tutoring or choir practice according to the witnesses. He had a train set and an organ that he would invite children to play before sexually abusing them in the basement.
Adamson died in the mid-1970s while he was still principal of the school.