Thursday, February 12, 2015

Challengers Move Toward Success In Fraud Suit Against Conversion Therapy Provider

Plaintiffs in recent days have won two important state court victories in a New Jersey consumer fraud lawsuit against an organization that offers "conversion therapy" to gay men. In Ferguson v. JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives For Healing), (NJ Super. Ct. Feb. 5, 2015), the trial court ruled that expert testimony of five proposed witnesses, and part of the expert testimony of a sixth, should be excluded at trial.  The court said in part:
[T]he theory that homosexuality is a disorder is not novel but -- like the notion that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it -- instead is outdated and refuted. Homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder in the DSM until its removal in 1973.... JONAH has not identified any case that provides a standard for the admission of obsolete and discredited scientific theories. By definition, such theories are unreliable and can offer no assistance to the jury, but rather present only confusion and prejudice.
A Southern Poverty Law Center press release has more details.

Plaintiffs' second win came in  Ferguson v. JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives For Healing), (NJ Super. Ct. Feb. 10, 2015).  The court granted partial summary judgment to plaintiffs, holding in part that:
it is a misrepresentation in violation of the CFA [Consumer Fraud Act], in advertising or selling conversion therapy services to describe homosexuality ... as being a mental illness, disease, disorder, or equivalent thereof....
The court also held that it is a CFA violation to advertise conversion therapy success statistics when there is no factual basis for calculating the statistics. As reported by The Advocate, a jury must still decide whether defendant made these kinds of misrepresentations. [See prior related posting.]