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Class action lawsuit against Scientology’s drug rehabs refiled with new plaintiffs

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The last time we checked in with Indiana attorney Jonathan Little, we talked to him about how a class-action lawsuit against Scientology’s Narconon system had hit a rough patch.

If you’ve been keeping up with our Narconon coverage over the last few years, you know that suing the rehab network turned into a cottage industry as a number of lawyers realized that Narconon’s essentially deceptive business model made it ripe for accusations of fraud.

Scientology either claims credit for Narconon as its glorious attempt to rid the earth of drug addiction or, depending on the circumstances, pretends that it has almost no connection to the rehab centers. The truth is that Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, as documents show, saw Narconon as a way to spread Scientology’s influence as an organization interested in “social betterment.” But Hubbard didn’t want that goal to seem overt. Narconon was one of several stealthy front groups that pushed Scientology concepts while pretending to be “secular” and not a part of the Scientology empire.

As David Love and others have shown, however, that pretense is extremely thin. While Narconon tells prospective clients that it offers individualized drug counseling in a safe environment managed by medical professionals, the truth is very different: The booklets that each Narconon uses for its program are filled with nothing but the identical exercises and counseling that Scientologists go through in their churches. And none of it involves drug counseling. Also, the staffs of Narconons are made up of recent graduates of the program who are still struggling to stay clean. So while you’re yelling instructions at an ashtray (an exercise that’s identical whether you’re at a Narconon rehab or in a Scientology org), you may have a better chance scoring a fix from your instructor than you do getting your blood pressure measured properly.

Anyway, patient deaths in places like Georgia and Oklahoma and Michigan got the attention of attorneys, who began taking a hard look at Narconon’s contracts. They realized that Narconon’s basic bait-and-switch made it vulnerable, and beginning a couple of years ago, the lawsuits against individual rehab centers started accumulating. The most prolific of these attorneys was Ryan Hamilton of Las Vegas, who filed 29 federal lawsuits in less than two years — all of which have now settled.

But Hamilton and others pointed out to us that suing individual Narconon centers had limited impact. Hamilton attempted to have a federal court consolidate all federal Narconon fraud lawsuits, but it was denied. Another approach is the class-action lawsuit. Jeff Harris, the attorney who represented the Desmond family in its wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia, filed a federal class action suit against Narconon, but it was dismissed.

Jonathan Little’s firm joined with two others to file a class-action lawsuit in California a little more than a year ago. But as we reported recently, the suit had the wind knocked out of it when the judge agreed with Narconon that language in the contracts the plaintiffs had signed obliged them to take their disputes to arbitration. Little told us that he’d refile with new plaintiffs who hadn’t signed such contracts.

On March 28, Little’s firm and two others filed the new lawsuit in federal court in Northern California, with two new plaintiffs.

Jamie Kerzner sent her son to the Narconon in Warner Springs in San Diego County in early 2014, Connie L. Rana sent her daughter to Rainbow Canyon Retreat in Caliente, Nevada in early 2013.

In both cases, the lawsuit states merely that these parents had paid $33,000 in up front money only to discover, after their children arrived at the rehab centers, that they were in fact delivering Scientology training and not drug counseling. Both parents pulled their children out.

Unlike other lawsuits against Narconon, there are no allegations about poor treatment or injuries or other medical issues. The lawsuit is laser-focused on the basic bait-and-switch of Narconon, and it explains in length how individual Narconon centers are controlled by the church itself.

If this lawsuit can withstand early challenges by Narconon, its goal would be to add many more plaintiffs, which Little is looking for with a website that has made Narconon’s attorneys so unhappy.

Here’s the new complaint. We’ve put in a call to David Miller, Little’s colleague whose name is on the document.

Rana v Narconon (Burgoon Second Amd Complaint)

 
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Bonus items from our tipsters

Hey, girl. We survived the Survival Rundown here in Tampa. Can we model you in clay now?

 
SciTampa10

 
Scientology whale Jim Mathers made the scene with a big crowd for the grand black and white ball in Mexico City to raise money for an Ideal Org.

 
SciMexico13
SciMexico14

 
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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on April 13, 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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