Lisa McPherson wrongful death case

Overview of Legal cases

Simplified overview of the main death case and all the cases that ensued from it, mailed to me by someone who has done extensive research of the case. Time period is 1997 - May 2003. Where possible I'll add information from later dates in red. I have added the links to the pertinent legal documents/media items. This page is accessible via . If you have comments, mail Mike Gormez (

Explanation of terms used in the overview:

Estate = Lisa McPherson Estate -- FLAG = Church of Scientology Flag Service Organzation Inc. -- SCN = Scientology -- SEA ORG = Sea Organization, consisting of scientologists who signed a billion year contract -- DM = David Miscavige, took control of the Scientology empire after the death of their founder, L. Ron Hubbard -- Dandar = Kennan Dandar, attorney for the Estate -- Dell = Dell Liebreich, aunt of Lisa McPherson, the woman who died while under Scientology's "care" -- RTC .= Scientology's Religious Technology Center -- Minton = Robert 'Bob' Minton, former critic of Scientology.

Judges in order of appearance:

James S. Moody -- W. Douglas Baird -- Susan F. Schaeffer -- Robert Beach

Lisa McPherson 1959 - 1995
Lisa McPherson '59 - '95

  1. Estate files wrongful death case on 19 February 1997 .
  2. Estate and FLAG enter into agreement not to add on parties: SCN corps and its officers or employees. SEA ORG and DM not mentioned.
  3. Estate files motion to add on parties and motion to set aside agreement in death case.
  4. Judge Moody upholds agreement and tells Dandar that he is free to breach if he wants to. Dandar says he has no desire to breach it. Within days SCN runs to Clearwater and files suit for breach of contract. WHY? Because SCN already knows that Moody said there was no breach.
  5. Baird ends up with breach case #1. It is FLAG against Estate, Dell, and Ken Dandar.
  6. Estate files second motion to add DM individually as captain of SEA ORG. Moody holds that DM is not protected by agreement and permits him to be added on 14 December 1999 .
  7. DM evades service of process with help by Mary Story of FLAG falsely answering court ordered interrogatories as to the residential address of DM. DM dismissed on 16 June 2000 from death suit only because he was not properly served. (Pres of RTC had accepted service for him).
  8. DM moves for attorney fees before Moody and loses. DM appeals and loses.
  9. FLAG gets Moody to transfer death case to Pinellas, asking that case be assigned to judge Schaeffer, who is handling the criminal case. New Pinellas judge, Quesada denies FLAG's request. Then Schaeffer, as chief judge, transfers Quesada to family law and takes over Quesada's civil section. Estate moves to disqualify Schaeffer, she denies it, Estate appeals her denial, then drops appeal.
  10. Breach case #2: RTC, acting for DM, saying it paid his attorney fees when he was sued individually by Estate, files suit in Texas for attorney fees against Estate and Dell individually. Dell wins, when the court dismisses her individually. RTC wins attorney fees against Estate, judge refuses to give full faith and credit to Moody's order permitting DM to be added. Case now on appeal, oral argument 6-2-03.
  11. RTC domesticates its Texas Judgments in Florida before Baird. Estate appeals.
  12. RTC files suit in Florida against Dell, even though it lost same case in Texas.
  13. Minton files motion to disqualify Schaeffer in counterclaim, where Minton is a party, but also in death claim, where he is not, all after Minton has been compromised by SCN. Minton's motion to disqualify is granted only in the counterclaim, not the death case. Minton appealed and lost . Schaeffer, now disqualified on counterclaim, transfers entire case out to chief judge for reassignment, who then transfers it to Judge Beach. Schaeffer states in her order that she would like death case back. Leaves it up to Beach. Estate files motion to transfer back, motion pending. SCN files motion to disqualify Schaeffer, which is denied and now on appeal. SCN wants Schaeffer disqualified because she is still considering motions heard before her but not yet decided.
  14. FLAG files for change of venue before BAIRD in breach #1 in May 2003. Attorneys for the Church of Scientology in Clearwater withdrew their request on Tuesday 10 June 2003
  15. FLAG files for change of venue in the wrongful death case on 25 June 2003. Keen observers note that this is particularly ironic in light of the fact that the case was moved to Pinellas County upon Scientology's own motion years ago.
  16. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on 25 July 2003 vacated the Texas rulings (Breach case #2) against Dell Liebreich as Personal Representative of the Estate of Lisa McPherson, and against Thomas J. Dandar and Kennan G. Dandar.
  17. Pinellas County. On 12 August 2003 the first day of jury trail on breach #1 started.
  18. Scientology wanted more than 2 million for breach case #1 but a jury awarded $4,500 on 20 August 2003 against Dell instead of Ken, as is reported..
  19. On 19 August 2003 the Texas' Fifth District Court of Appeal denied RTC's request for clarification of its July 2003 decision and denied petition for rehearing en banc in Breach case #2.
  20. 10 May 2004, United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed District court's ruling and rendered a smaller award to RTC in Breach case #2.

  21. 26 May 2004, global settlement: Scientologists settle death suit.

  22. June 2006. Although in May 2004 a settlement was announced in the press, the estate HAS NOT SETTLED. Scientology's counterclaim against the Lisa McPherson Estate remains open and no settlement documents have been signed. No money has changed hands. Scientology is stalling, the family has received nothing so far, and the courts -- as ever in this case -- are of no help.


To Life and Death of Lisa McPherson