A judge dismisses the allegation that Lisa McPherson was falsely
By ROBERT FARLEY
St. Petersburg Times,
June 22, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Church of Scientology won a partial victory Thursday
when a judge dismissed one of four counts in a 4-year-old wrongful death
lawsuit filed by the estate of Lisa McPherson.
In one of his final acts overseeing the case, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge
Frank Quesada dismissed the count alleging that McPherson was falsely
Ken Dandar, the lawyer representing the McPherson estate, argued that
McPherson was psychotic and incapable of giving her consent when she was
taken by members of the church to the Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater.
The 36-year-old Scientologist died in 1995 after 17 days in the care of
Although the lawsuit has yet to make it before a jury, Quesada on Thursday
granted a motion to dismiss the false imprisonment count.
"Based on the undisputed facts of this case, plaintiff has not made and
cannot make a showing that Lisa McPherson was unlawfully restrained
"against her will' by the defendants," Quesada wrote in his 49-page
opinion. "In fact, all of the evidence indicates the opposite. Lisa
McPherson refused psychiatric observation or admission at the hospital;
she expressly stated her desire to receive the religious care and
assistance from her fellow congregants that she and they wanted her to
"Moreover ... McPherson exhibited bizarre and psychotic behavior, there is
no competent evidence that Lisa McPherson demanded to be released and was
unlawfully restrained from leaving," Quesada wrote.
Church spokesman Ben Shaw called it the most significant ruling in the
case to date.
"Lisa was a very dedicated member of the church, and people were doing
their best to help her," Shaw said.
Kendrick Moxon, a lawyer for Scientology,called the lawsuit "nothing more
than a vehicle to say bad things about the church."
Dandar said he will appeal Quesada's ruling. He said after a hearing
Thursday that Quesada's order was based on false testimony and disregards
the testimony of several psychiatrists who said McPherson was incapable of
But the ruling is not damaging to the main part of the case, Dandar said.
"It is not central at all," Dandar said. "Even if the jury were going to
believe that Lisa wanted and consented to go to the hotel, she never
consented to dying."
Because of a shuffling of judicial assignments, the lawsuit will now be
transferred to Pinellas-Pasco Chief Judge Susan Schaeffer. Dandar said he
plans to file a motion asking Schaeffer to recuse herself because of
previous comments she made that he said were sympathetic to the church.