Sue Scheff and PURE Win Empty Victory over New Orleans Mom
BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA (October 10, 2006) - On September 19, 2006, Parents Universal Resource Experts, Inc. (PURE) and its founder, Sue Scheff of Weston, Florida won an $11.3 million dollar victory of hollow sorts over a single mom from New Orleans by alleging defamation over the Internet. Although it is doubtful the verdict will be collected, it may serve to chill free speech of those attempting to expose child abuse or untoward business practices.
The mom, Carey Bock, had publicly criticized the business practices of Scheff and PURE in referring children to allegedly abusive programs. Scheff met the mother’s complaints with a lawsuit reminiscent of one filed against Scheff in 2001.
The mom lacked the financial resources to defend herself or to attend her own trial in Florida. Before trial, Ms. Bock relocated her small family from the New Orleans area to Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This, however, did not stop Scheff and PURE from coming full-steam after the mom for alleged defamation and other claims. As a result, without the benefit of hearing the mom’s side of the story, a jury had little choice but to award the $11.3 million dollar verdict requested by the lawyer for Scheff and her company.
According to the Daily Business Review, Scheff also named Ginger Warbis as co-defendant. Warbis, who runs a web site critical of Scheff, obtained a well-known lawyer who successfully defeated Scheff’s claims of defamation: “Warbis’ lawyer, Philip Elberg, of Medvin & Elberg of Newark, New Jersey, sharply criticized Scheff and other people who refer parents to programs for troubled teens. ‘People in this industry have consistently used their money and their access to lawyers to silence critics of the industry and this may be one of those examples,’ Elberg said. ‘Sue Scheff is simply another person in the industry of people who make money from the plight of frightened parents.’”
The Daily Business Review, noting that Scheff won effectively only by default, paraphrased Scheff’s attorney, stating, “Bock was not present for the jury trial, which was held to determine damages only. . . .”
Ironically, a separate lawsuit had been filed in Utah against Scheff and PURE by the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs (WWASP), containing similar allegations as those raised by Scheff against the New Orleans mom. Scheff lost all counter-claims against WWASP but was not found liable for claims of damage allegedly caused when Scheff posted Internet statements asserting child abuse by WWASP. Scheff admitted she used false names to do so. While her case pended, Scheff removed representations from her web site which falsely stated Scheff holds a college degree.
The recent Florida verdict also ignored abuse allegations at children’s programs to which Scheff refers families because the jury never heard the opposing evidence. The owner of one such program to which Scheff made referrals, Whitmore Academy, was initially charged with multiple counts of child abuse and hazing in connection with four children at the boarding school. The owner recently pled no contest to four counts of hazing, and was ordered to pay fines and complete community service. The prosecuting attorney told the Deseret News, “I believe it effectively shuts them down in the state of Utah.” According to a September 2006 news article by the Deseret News, “The former operator of a therapeutic school [Whitmore Academy] for troubled youths, who has been kicked out of Mexico and accused of starving horses in Canada, has agreed not to run another rehabilitation school in Juab County.”
The allegations of child abuse did not deter Scheff from enrolling children for a profitable sum of money. In a separate case, the United States Court of Appeals found that defendants PURE and Sue Scheff, “[C]ompete with the schools associated with World Wide. PURE schools pay Ms. Scheff a substantial sum whenever a child enrolls in its program based on her recommendation.”
According to the non-profit International Survivors Action Committee (ISAC), Scheff and her company are on the ISAC “watch list” for questionable practices that may place children at risk for abuse or neglect. ####
- Contact Information
- Shelby Earnshaw
- International Survivors Action Committee (ISAC)
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