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Excerpt from the deposition of Tom Brennan
Excerpt from the deposition of Peter Mansell
Priest Penitent Privilege Information
Rush to Judgement
Judge Merryday’s ruling had ignored crucial facts in the case, Lirot argued. It never properly addressed the implications of Scientology’s dogmatic opposition to psychiatric drugs and the authoritarian nature of its ethics system governing members’ behavior. And it had concluded that there was “no genuine issue of material fact” to put to a jury. But the plaintiff’s contention that Tom Brennan had confiscated his son’s medication was not groundless speculation.
It was supported by Brennan’s own initial statements to the police. “His testimony is inconsistent, and the District Court, painfully, disregarded these inconsistencies….,” wrote Lirot. “Under any analysis of the record, in this case, the ‘voluntariness’ of the disuse of Lexapro is a disputed issue.”20 Judge Merryday had also ruled that those targetted in the lawsuit had no duty of care to Kyle Brennan. But Lirot argued: “Kyle’s psychiatric ailments were known, the importance of his continual taking of Lexapro was communicated, and the results of this tragedy were foreseeable.”(Lirot’s emphasis)21 And if there was any dispute over the question of foreseeability, well – that too should have been left for a jury to decide, he added.
Citing case law, Lirot argued: “A judge should only remove the question from the jury if there is a total absence of evidence to support an inference that the intervening cause was foreseeable.’”22 That was not the case here, he wrote.
Scientology’s legal team had cited a wealth of case law in defense of their clients, Lirot noted. But certain aspects of this affair made it unique. For one thing, he argued, “…none of these cases involved an ‘International Church’ with a well-known and militant aversion to psychotropic drugs.” For another, he argued: “Taking away important psychiatric medication and negligently leaving a handgun and easily available ammunition accessible to a person with known psychological problems creates an entirely different factual scenario.”23
The plaintiffs did not dispute the right of Scientologists to their beliefs and their right to express their anti-psychiatry views, wrote Lirot. But those beliefs could not be imposed on non-believers. And this, he argued, was exactly what had happened here, with tragic consequences. “This is a case about negligent and invasive conduct, not religious freedom. The District Court erred by glossing over this huge fact.”24