“There’s nothing we don’t miss about her. She was just a lot of fun. Even when you were having the worst day of your life, she could figure out how to get a smile out of you,” Guy Fauteux told us yesterday about his daughter Tabatha. “It’s the worst. And she was doing so good. She wanted to do so good.”
We called him to catch up on what’s been happening in a wrongful death lawsuit that he and his wife Sheila filed against Scientology’s Narconon International and the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE) after Tabatha Fauteux’s heroin overdose in November 2015.
You may remember our stories about Tabatha’s death. She had gone through Narconon’s rehab program in Texas and then was hired on staff. She was then flown to Los Angeles with her boyfriend, another Narconon staffer, to receive special training from ABLE on a new change being made to the Narconon counseling regime. While staying in Los Angeles at an apartment paid for by ABLE, Tabatha died of a heroin overdose.
Tabatha’s boyfriend told us that fellow Narconon staff had given them “kratom,” an herbal drug that was supposed to deliver a high something like the heroin they had managed to put behind them. But the kratom didn’t really work as advertised, he told us, and only left them craving the real thing. So they started using heroin again, even as they were being trained on Narconon’s anti-drug program. One morning, the boyfriend found Tabatha in the shower, unresponsive. An autopsy confirmed that she died of a heroin overdose.
In the wrongful death lawsuit her parents filed in November, the Fauteuxs are alleging that Narconon was negligent in its lax control of the recently graduated “students” of its program, and that they seemed more interested in trying to convince Tabatha to join Scientology than in keeping her sober.
Narconon’s attorney, William Forman, jumped on that allegation, filing an anti-SLAPP motion that singled out the lawsuit’s references to proselytizing. Claiming that Narconon and ABLE are “secular,” he denied that Tabatha had been pressured to join Scientology, and even if the proselytizing had happened, it would be activity that is protected by the First Amendment.
But Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael J. Raphael issued a ruling that the lawsuit’s allegations of proselytizing aren’t being pointed to as the cause of Tabatha’s death, but they are being offered as evidence that Narconon was negligent in their supervision of Tabatha. Or, as the judge put it…
Religious proselytization may be protected conduct under the anti-SLAPP statute in many circumstances. But in this Court’s view, plaintiffs’ claims in this first amended complaint arise from the alleged negligent supervision of plaintiff’s daughter in the training program, and not from protected activity.
Judge Raphael denied Narconon’s anti-SLAPP motion. Narconon also filed a motion known as a demurrer, which in general is an admission of the facts but asks that a case be dismissed because it doesn’t meet a legal standard. In this instance, Narconon asked the judge to find that even if Tabatha died while in ABLE training, ABLE didn’t supply her with heroin, and it was Tabatha who injected herself, citing the “unclean hands” doctrine. In other words, they were saying, stop blaming us for her bad or immoral behavior. But Judge Raphael found that there were enough facts stated in the complaint to suggest that negligence could be proven, depending on what facts are presented at court. (He wasn’t saying the Fauteuxs would necessarily win at trial, but there was enough evidence to proceed for the time being.) As for the unclean hands of Tabatha Fauteux, the judge said…
Plaintiffs might successfully argue that their daughter’s drug addiction was not morally blameworthy but rather was a morally neutral physical or psychological addiction that she did nothing to bring upon herself.
We have to say, that sure seems like a pretty enlightened position for a judge to take.
After a hearing was held on March 28, Judge Raphael denied the demurrer.
We asked Guy Fauteux how he felt about that, but he admitted that he didn’t even know it had happened. “You’ve told me more about it than I’ve heard!” he said.
We put in a call to Gary Richardson, who is representing the Fauteuxs, but he was in a conference and we hope to talk to him soon. He’s scored a couple of impressive victories early in this case, and we’ll be anxious to find out who he plans to depose as it moves forward.
It was David Miscavige who ordered the new training program at the Narconon clinics, according to his pronouncements at Scientology events. And it was that new program that brought Tabatha Fauteux to Los Angeles. It might be a long shot to get Miscavige into the witness chair for this case, but it sure would be interesting.
Original complaint, Guy and Sheila Fauteux v. Narconon International and ABLE
Narconon’s anti-SLAPP motion
And Judge Raphael’s ruling denying Narconon’s anti-SLAPP and Demurrer…
Fauteux v. Narconon: Ruling on anti-SLAPP and Demurrer by Tony Ortega on Scribd