Appeals Court Clears Church of Scientology in Wrongful Death Suit
Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) October 29, 2012 - Three federal judges have upheld the dismissal of a wrongful death lawsuit against the Church of Scientology.
The suit was brought by the mother of a Virginia man who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while visiting his father, a Scientologist, in Clearwater, Fla.
“Suicides are particularly tragic and difficult for families to deal with,” said Tampa wrongful death attorney Robert Joyce. “If survivors believe a third party may be culpable, it is important to investigate that possibility.”
According to Clearwater police, on the night of Feb. 16, 2007, Kyle Brennan, 20, shot himself with a handgun in his father's home. When Thomas Brennan came home from work that night, he found his son's body. Kyle, who lived in Charlottesville, Va., was traveling cross-country and was scheduled to return home after visiting his father.
Victoria Britton, Kyle Brennan's mother and administrator of his estate, filed the wrongful death suit in Tampa federal court in 2009. She alleged that Thomas Brennan told Denise Gentile, his Scientology counselor, that Kyle was taking Lexapro, a prescribed antidepressant. The Church of Scientology opposes the practice of psychiatry and the use of medication to treat mental disorders.
Gentile and Thomas Brennan told Britton that her son would benefit from a drug treatment program administered by Narconon, a Scientology-affiliated organization. Britton refused. The lawsuit further alleges that Thomas Brennan then locked his son's Lexapro in his car after being advised by a Scientology officer to “handle” Kyle according to church policy. Less than 24 hours later, Kyle Brennan was found dead.
Last December, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday dismissed the lawsuit, citing a lack of evidence as to how frequently Kyle Brennan took Lexapro and the effect that stopping it had on the man.
A church spokeswoman said that the appeals court's affirmation of the dismissal confirmed that the lawsuit had no factual basis.
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