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Ryan Hamilton’s next move: Consolidating his Narconon litigation into one big case

StrengthInNumbers2Las Vegas attorney Ryan Hamilton has filed 24 separate lawsuits against Scientology’s drug rehab network, Narconon, in three states. We’ve noticed that some of our commenters have wondered how one attorney can handle so many different suits at the same time, and apparently, that question has occurred to Hamilton himself.

On November 3, Hamilton submitted a motion to consolidate the pretrial phase of his 24 lawsuits to the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.

Hamilton is asking that the pretrial matters in his pending actions in California, Colorado, and Nevada be coordinated in the federal court’s Las Vegas division.

His reasoning? Although the cases involve several different Narconon facilities in three states, they are all overseen by Scientology entities Narconon International and the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE), who have also been named in the suits as defendants. And each of the lawsuits have many common themes…

Generally, Plaintiffs in these actions allege that they are victims of Defendants’ “bait and switch” scheme whereby Defendants promised highly effective drug treatment but delivered nothing but rituals and teachings from the Scientology religion. Plaintiffs in each action typically paid more than $30,000.00 for the sham treatment.



Plaintiffs allege they relied on the same false representations in deciding to admit themselves or a loved one to a Narconon center for treatment. These false representations include: (1) that the Narconon Program has at least a 76 percent “success rate;” (2) that the Narconon program has a sauna program that can reduce or eliminate an addict’s drug cravings; (3) that the Narconon Program would provide counseling; and (4) that the Narconon program is secular and does not involve the study or practice of religion. Plaintiffs in each action allege that the Narconon Program’s connection to the Scientology religion was never disclosed or was expressly disclaimed.

The defendants have until November 25 to respond, and then Hamilton will have a week to reply to that response.

If the federal courts agree to the consolidation, discovery and other pretrial matters will be coordinated in one court, and a global settlement might be one outcome.

For trial, a case would revert to its original venue. But our research suggests that what often happens in a consolidated situation like this is that the results of an initial trial then makes a global settlement for the rest of the cases more likely. (One side, in other words, gets a good idea of its chances and then is more eager to prevent more trials.)

Also, a footnote in Hamilton’s motion provides an update on how many cases have already settled, at least partially.

In six of the cases (Mott in Colorado, Burchett in California, and Tarr, Winchell, McClure, and Yates in Nevada) defendants Narconon International and ABLE have already settled, but the local facilities have not.

In one case (Estrada in California), all of the defendants have agreed to settle, and terms are still being worked out.

And in two other cases (Martin in Nevada and Vairo in Colorado), arbitration is likely.

None of the 24 lawsuits has been dismissed.

Here’s Hamilton’s motion…


Ryan Hamilton: Multidistrict Litigation brief

We expect that Narconon and Scientology will fight this motion with vigor. Keeping Hamilton hopping between three states is no doubt part of their strategy to wear him down. (And after all, he brought them, so we can’t really blame Scientology for that strategy.)

UPDATE: We can see there’s some confusion about this development in the comments. As Hamilton indicates in the filing, he anticipates filing even more lawsuits in the future. This request for consolidation would have all of the pretrial matters in these cases handled out of one courtroom. This would reduce paperwork and travel, and it would prevent clashing orders among the courts. Also, it would tend to encourage a global settlement rather than piecemeal solutions.

In some ways, it would give Hamilton and his clients some of the benefits of a class-action lawsuit without the downsides of class actions. (Class action lawsuits totally suck and only ever benefit the lawyers, never the victims.)

Answering some of the questions coming up: No, this is not a move toward a class action lawsuit. No, this has nothing to do with RICO. No, this does not mean one big trial. Each of the lawsuits would revert to their home courts if they go to trial. As we pointed out in the story, when this approach is used, an initial trial or two tends to lead to a global settlement.

Basically, we think Hamilton is doing this because his cases so far have proved to be strong, and because they’ve followed a similar blueprint. We think Scientology will strongly oppose this move because it will tend to make Hamilton’s position even stronger.


Posted by Tony Ortega on November 10, 2014 at 07:00

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