"It is a landmark

case not only for 

Oregon but for 

the whole country

in terms of the

legal issues

created by 

representing a 

non-patient 

plaintiff against 

a psychologist." 

 

 

 

 

Suing the Devil: A Case of Abused Trust
Attorney Michael Dwyer represented a patient victimized by a therapist
 By Jeanine DeNoma 
On September 25, Willamette Week published a most astounding and distressing story, which stimulated a discussion among local skeptics and led to the topic for our coming fall meeting and the general theme for this issue of the newsletter. The story began when Jennifer Fultz, a Portland homemaker and mother of two young boys, sought counseling for difficulties coping with her responsibilities. The outcome was five torturous years for the Fultz family and, finally, lawsuits against the two therapists who treated Fultz.

     Jennifer Fultz's case intertwines the controversies surrounding repressed memories, satanic cults, and multiple personality disorder. And raises disturbing questions about methodologies used by some therapists.

     Willamette Week examined how, during the course of therapy, "Jennifer Fultz went from being a stressed-out homemaker ... to someone who believed her parents once forced her to eat human flesh."

     In 1991, Fultz, on the suggestion of her massage therapist, sought treatment from clinical psychologist Sophia Carr, an independent practitioner at Clackamas Family Counseling Services. Carr diagnosed Fultz as having Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). Carr then went on to convince Fultz her MPD was caused by a past trauma. Eventually Carr concluded, and succeeded in convincing Fultz, that she was a victim of Satanic Ritual Abuse and that her children were likewise victims of abuse.

     Fultz says that during the three years she was in therapy, Carr treated her with "hypnosis, exorcisms, speaking in tongues, and dream interpretation," Willamette Week reported. "The worst thing was when she would call out the demons, which obviously suggests that I had them. I never said there were demons inside me. She told me what I was seeing. I would never have thought of that," said Fultz. "I'm a Christian, so I believed in Satan, but I had never heard of this before."

     Carr received her Ph.D. From Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland and has been a licensed Oregon clinical psychologist since 1989. Professional colleagues reported in court depositions that Carr was noted for her interest in satanic cults. In 1990 she claimed on KATU's Town Hall that she had been abducted by a satanic cult as a teenager.

     During Fultz's treatment, a colleague of Carr's, Chyril Walker, examined Fultz's two boys and convinced Fultz the children were being sexually abused by their father. Fultz moved the boys to a battered women's shelter. In child custody hearings, however, the court found no evidence the boys had been abused. While listening to testimony at the custody hearings, said Fultz, things began to click. Now she says she cannot explain how these ideas even seemed plausible.

     Both Jennifer Fultz and her ex-husband, Kevin Fultz, sued the two therapists. Walker settled out of court for $1.15 million. Carr has accepted a settlement for an undisclosed amount. Neither Walker nor Carr have admitted any wrongdoing and both are continuing to practice, although they have moved from their Clackamas location to Tigard.

     The case was one of only a few where non-patients have been allowed to sue therapists. "It is a landmark case not only for Oregon but for the whole country in terms of the legal issues created by representing a non-patient plaintiff against a psychologist," said Michael Shinn, the attorney representing Kevin Fultz, his parents, and the two boys.

     Michael Dwyer, the attorney who represented Jennifer Fultz, is the scheduled speaker for OR's November 11 meeting. Psychologist Dr. Loren Pankratz will also be on the discussion panel.

     Loren Pankratz is a founding member of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation and serves on its Scientific and Professional Advisory Board. He is a consultant psychologist at the Portland Veterans Administration Medical Center, a professor in the departments of psychiatry and medical psychology at the Oregon Health Sciences University, and a CSICOP Fellow.

     Michael Dwyer is a Portland trial lawyer specializing in personal injury lawsuits, divorce, and family law. He has been extensively involved in cases concerning psychological issues such as sexual abuse, spousal abuse, and recovered memories. Since graduating from Loyola Law School in 1977, Dwyer has prosecuted federal crimes as an Assistant United States Attorney in Los Angeles and worked as a defense attorney in Honolulu. He is currently a member of the Procedures and Practices Committee of the Oregon State Bar. He has served as chair of the Multnomah Bar Association's Legal Services for the Poor Committee. He is a member of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association and the American Trial Lawyers Association. Dwyer is licensed to practice law in Oregon, California, and Hawaii.
 
 

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