Plaintiffs in this case were a husband and wife who sought treatment from a psychologist for marital difficulties. The psychologist suggested that they enter into group therapy facilitated by the defendant. The plaintiffs, as well as all of the other participants, stayed in the group for over ten years and every time they attempted to leave the group, the defendant would have the other participants shame and ridicule the plaintiffs; thus, holding them into the group. The participants were told that their lives would fall apart if they left the group. Eventually, the plaintiffs were able to break away and retained the law offices of Winer, McKenna & Burritt, LLP.
The defense alleged that plaintiffs voluntarily stayed in the group for ten years, that the group was conducted according to the standard of care in the community and plaintiffs did not suffer any damage as a result of attending the group but, rather, their lives had flourished.
The law offices of Winer, McKenna & Burritt, LLP, retained a psychologist who was a “cult” expert who testified that the defendant used “cult-like” thought reform and mind control techniques to keep all of the participants in the group for so many years to financially benefit the defendant and to the detriment of the plaintiffs. Further, the expert testified that there was no valid psychological reason to keep a group going for that period of time and that the defendant used inappropriate techniques to turn the group members against each other any time anyone tried to leave.
RESULT: Settlement on behalf of plaintiffs for $275,000