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Federal judge dismisses Georgia class-action lawsuit against Scientology and rehab network

Steve_JonesFederal District Judge Steve C. Jones (pictured, right) has dismissed a class-action lawsuit against Scientology and its drug rehab network, Narconon, that was filed by seven plaintiffs last June.

Atlanta attorney Jeff Harris filed the lawsuit on behalf of seven people who said they had been defrauded by Narconon Georgia, a troubled drug rehab center that gave up its license last year as a way to escape prosecution in a deal with a district attorney. That investigation included a raid of the facility, and is ongoing.

Harris filed the class-action lawsuit in a Georgia state court, but Scientology had it removed to federal court and then filed motions to dismiss on behalf of all four defendants — Narconon Georgia, the facility’s parent organization Narconon International, the drug rehab network’s parent the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE), and Scientology’s nominally controlling entity the Religious Technology Center (RTC), which oversees ABLE and the rest of the Scientology movement.

At the time it was filed, we pointed out that it was a significant and uncommon attempt to tie together Narconon with RTC…

This suit, more than others before it, aims to connect Scientology and Narconon in a relationship of deceit: “The Defendants direct staff members and salespeople to lie about, misrepresent, or otherwise conceal Narconon’s connection to Scientology.”

But Judge Jones dismissed the suit against RTC because he said the plaintiffs hadn’t proved that connection after RTC submitted a declaration by the entity’s president, Warren McShane, who denied that ABLE or Narconon are agents of RTC. Writes Jones…


Simply arguing that RTC internally controls ABLE, International, and NNGA does not, standing alone, establish that this alleged control conveys to third parties that an agency relationship exists.

For that reason, he dismissed the lawsuit against RTC.

As for ABLE, Narconon International, and Narconon Georgia, the lawsuit was making claims of fraudulent misrepresentation, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, detrimental reliance, negligence per se, and civil RICO for theft by deception, mail and wire fraud, false statements to a government agency, credit card fraud, and identity fraud.

But Judge Jones knocked down each one of those claims, saying that when the plaintiffs complain about Narconon’s fraudulent success claims, for example, they are “generalized allegations” that aren’t particular enough. The judge also criticized the plaintiffs about the lack of specificity in the RICO claims. He also found repeatedly that the plaintiff’s complaint had not asserted a basis for relief.

We’ll be looking for expert commentary from our legal advisers to help us sort out where the lawsuit went wrong. We’ve also put in a call to Jeff Harris to get his comment.

Pete Combs of WSB-Radio tells us that he was told by Harris that the suit was dismissed on technicalities, and he vows to appeal the decision.


Burgess et al v. RTC, Narconon: Order to Dismiss

In the judgment, Judge Jones also awarded the defendants their legal costs. Those of you familiar with the history of Scientology litigation know that the church will now go after Harris and the seven plaintiffs like a dog after a bone for those fees. We’ll be looking for copies of the bill they submit to the court.


Burgess et al v. RTC, Narconon: Judgment


Posted by Tony Ortega on February 21, 2014 at 19:45

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UP THE BRIDGE (Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN (Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING (Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41

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