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Church of Scientology Settles Case

May 11, 2002 GMT

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LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The Church of Scientology has agreed to pay a former member more than $8.6 million to resolve a lawsuit filed nearly 22 years ago.

In his 1980 lawsuit, Lawrence Wollersheim accused the church of causing him to develop bipolar disorder and to contemplate suicide. A jury in 1986 awarded him $30 million, an amount reduced on appeal to $2.5 million and upheld by the Supreme Court in 1994.

Church officials on Thursday handed over a check for $8,674,843 to Los Angeles County Superior Court, saying they wanted to put the matter behind them.

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``This lawsuit was over 20 years old and concerned events from 30 years ago,″ Neil Levin, president of the Church of Scientology of California, said in a statement.

Wollersheim, who lives in Nevada, joined the church in 1969.

``Everything hasn’t had a chance to set in, except that this is a great victory for social justice,″ he said by phone Friday.

According to his lawsuit, at one point he was held on a ship for 18 hours a day, deprived of food and sleep. He said it was a mind control tactic that caused him to develop bipolar disorder.

``The counseling techniques are designed to either break you or make you a slave,″ said Wollersheim, 53. ``I was on the edge of insanity.″

The two sides disagreed over why it took so long to settle the case. Wollersheim accused the church of using stalling tactics.

``From what I understand, Wollersheim didn’t make any effort to collect the judgment,″ church attorney William Drescher told The Washington Post.