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For a class-action lawsuit against Scientology’s rehab network, a setback in California

Edward_Chen2

[Judge Edward Chen]

In April, we told you that a new class-action lawsuit had been filed with two initial plaintiffs against Scientology’s drug rehab “Narconon” networks in California. Then, in August, we brought you a startling update — Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco had called for a trial to settle a disagreement in the lawsuit before it could go any further.

Now we have the results of that trial, which happened much sooner than we were expecting, and it resulted in a setback for the lawsuit but not one that will prevent it from going forward, say the plaintiff’s attorneys.

Indiana attorney David Miller, California attorney Michael Ram, and Seattle attorney Beth Terrell filed their suit in federal court in Northern California, asking for both national and regional classes to be certified as their clients sue for breach of contract, negligent representation, false advertising, and unfair competition. One of the initial plaintiffs is Nathan Burgoon of California, who attended the Watsonville facility of the Northern California network which has now left the Narconon network and cut off ties with Scientology. The other plaintiff, Caleb Landers of Pennsylvania, was a patient at the Southern California rehab network, Narconon Fresh Start, at its facility in Warner Springs.

The lawsuit alleges what we’ve seen in so many other lawsuits against Narconon around the country, that these patients were promised individualized drug counseling at a legitimate rehab, but weren’t told that they’d be getting Scientology training rather than drug counseling.

Narconon’s attorneys objected to the lawsuit, saying that the men had signed contracts when they arrived at the facilities that require them to submit any claims to arbitration rather than to a courtroom. But attorneys for Burgoon and Landers pointed out that both men were high as kites when they signed those contracts and so they shouldn’t be held to their terms. In fact, the plaintiffs alleged, Narconon actually helps patients get high when they first arrive so that they can qualify for a special medical detox program (and the insurance payments it qualifies for).

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But in the bench trial he held earlier this month, Judge Chen simply found that Burgoon and Landers weren’t credible. He heard testimony from the two former addicts, and also from Narconon employees, who said that the two were fully aware of the material in the documents they signed.

Both Plaintiffs, in fact, knew that they were at the Narconon facilities to receive drug treatment, that they were consenting to such treatment, and that the facilities would have to be paid for giving treatment. Thus, both Plaintiffs were able to understand the nature and effect of the admission agreements. Plaintiffs’ assertion that they were extremely high and/or suffering severe withdrawal symptoms which rendered them mentally incapable of contracting is not supported by the evidence.

We’re glad that Judge Chen held this trial. So many lawsuits involving Scientology never get to this point because the church’s legal strategy is always to delay and derail litigation rather than have the facts presented and judged. In this case, Burgoon and Landers were unable to convince the judge that they didn’t know what they were doing when they signed the Narconon contracts. But at least they had the chance to say their piece in court.

So now that Judge Chen has found that the terms of the contracts do apply, the Landers case will go to arbitration, Chen has ordered. The Burgoon case is a little more complicated. His case against Narconon Northern California will go to arbitration, but his case against the other defendants — including Narconon International and the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE), the umbrella groups that oversee individual Narconon facilities — will not, but those matters will be put on hold until after the arbitration against the local facility is concluded.

And in this situation “arbitration” refers to the legitimate, independent kind of mediation that it means for most people, and not the internal justice system of the Church of Scientology that became such an issue in the federal fraud lawsuit brought against Scientology by Luis and Rocio Garcia.

Meanwhile, the attorneys for Burgoon and Landers say their class-action is still alive and will expand with other plaintiffs, but they’ll be looking for plaintiffs who did not sign contracts that require arbitration.

“We are going to amend the complaint and will file something for people who don’t have an arbitration clause,” says attorney Ali Saeed, of the Saeed & Little law firm in Indianapolis.

Here’s Chen’s order…

Burgoon v. Narconon: Findings of fact

 
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Bonus photos from our tipsters

Actual caption: “The Italian OTC [OT Committee] has taken Tampa CF [Central Files] by storm!!! Look at them go!! They are making it happen and have accepted the challenge to fully upgrade Tampa’s CF!!” Oh, what fun, “updgrading” paper files to help track down people who took courses decades ago so you can hound them with mailings and phone calls. This planet will be cleared in no time.

 
SciTampa5

 
What would a Taiwan book fair be without a giant L. Ron Hubbard?

 
SciTaiwan6

 
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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on January 25, 2016 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield

 

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