Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


Nearly four years after Stacy Murphy’s death, Scientology files motion to kill much of lawsuit


It’s been nearly four years since Stacy Dawn Murphy, 20, was found dead at Scientology’s flagship drug rehab center, Narconon Arrowhead, in Oklahoma. Two other patients at the clinic had died in just the previous nine months, but it was Stacy’s death that particularly shocked local and national media, leading to a new focus on the problems at Scientology’s rehabs.

The lawsuits in those other Narconon Arrowhead deaths of 2011 and 2012, of Gabriel Graves and Hillary Holten, have been settled. But the lawsuit filed by the parents of Stacy Murphy — Robert Murphy and Tonya White — not only hasn’t been resolved, now two of the defendants in the case have asked Judge Jim D. Bland to grant them summary judgment.

Narconon International (NI) and the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE), the two Scientology umbrella groups which license and oversee Narconon clinics, have submitted a lengthy brief to the court, asking the court to find for them without having to go to trial. They argue that Murphy and White have not been able to prove the assertion in their complaint, that NI and ABLE not only license Narconon centers but also exert enough control over them to have been liable in Stacy Murphy’s death.

Stacy, who had struggled with a serious drug addiction, had managed to procure prescription pills on a home visit from the clinic. When she returned to the Narconon, staff observed that she was obviously high, and so they put her into Arrowhead’s “withdrawal unit” — and then left her unattended for hours. She was then found dead. The lawsuit alleges that Narconon had promised that it had medical staff on hand, which turned out not to be the case, and led, Murphy and White believe, to their daughter’s death.


But Narconon International and ABLE say they shouldn’t be held liable for what happened at a clinic they merely license, and don’t run on a day to day basis. We asked attorney Scott Pilutik his thoughts about the argument that NI and ABLE make in this motion….

It would take someone to really dig through the facts to spot the weakness of their argument (and you’ll get that when plaintiffs respond). I’m going to guess, however, that the problems start with the section titled “Uncontroverted Facts,” which is a term usually reserved for facts that the parties stipulate to so they don’t have to be continually argued. But some of those read like the sort of statements that plaintiffs are going to want to contest (e.g., #28., “NI does not have any authority to recommend disciplinary action in regard to an Arrowhead employee.”). Many of these facts are innocuous and many are legalistic truths which fall apart in practice, which is the distinction that underlies plaintiffs’ entire case.

Similarly, the other sections appear to make arguments contingent on assumptions I doubt plaintiffs are ready to concede.

The big issue, as is the case in all agency cases, is one of control, and what evidence demonstrates that control. ABLE and NI maintain a formal relationship with franchises like Arrowhead, sure, but is that really control? ABLE/NI are correct that licensing agreements do not amount to “control” but the relationship between the entities is more complicated than is typically found between licensor and licensee, because the entities are pressured to perform — think of the statistics and reports that pass between the entities, with ABLE/NI having the ability to bring the hammer down on any entity not pulling their weight. When the franchises have so little autonomy, it’s disingenuous for the parent corp to say, “Well, we don’t control day to day operations, so we’re not liable.” The goings-on of NN franchises are tightly scripted and it’s within the parameters of that script that so many people are dying. It’s not like, say, people suing Burger King Inc for food poisoning that was the fault of one particular BK. Extending that analogy, imagine all the Burger King franchises following instructions to the letter and people were still getting food poisoning.

But those are generalized thoughts about NNs and agency, not this particular case. Showing it is obviously more difficult.

We’ll be interested in your thoughts about this document and its volumes of evidence attached, which include portions from depositions of Narconon officials that we haven’t previously seen. For document hounds, this is a pretty good haul…


Murphy v. Narconon: Defendants NI and ABLE MSJ


Bonus items from our tipsters

Ken Kramer, whom we’ve run into before, has a new strategem in his war against the evil psychs…


And here are some examples Ken has been able to garner so far…



3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on June 21, 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


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email