The New York Personal Injury Blog

'Conversion Therapy' Provider JONAH Sued; Is There a Case for Fraud?

Some think that homosexuality can be "cured." They believe that environmental factors are to blame, or that sexual preference is a choice that people make. The American Psychological Association agreed that homosexuality was a curable disorder until about 1974 or so, when the second edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II) was published.

Nowadays, most people find those who believe in "gay cures" to be a outside the mainstream of thought. Research is showing a stronger link between genetics and homosexuality. It's no longer listed as a mental disorder, and society in general has become more tolerant.

That hasn’t stopped “gay conversion therapy” from becoming a niche practice. These “therapists,” who are generally not licensed, typically use pop psychology and religion to “cure the gay away.” Not surprisingly, it usually doesn’t work. Former clients of a New Jersey provider have now brought the first lawsuit against a conversion therapy provider, alleging fraud, the New York Daily News reports.

Does taking money for an arguably ineffective therapy qualify as fraud? If doctors sell snake oil, that is fraud. But if herb stores sell “natural remedies,” is that just good business based off the populace’s growing fear of ingesting odd chemical combinations that later present undesired side effects?

In reality, many types of “alternative medicine” simply don’t work. Such is the case with “conversion therapy.” But at what point does caveat emptor come into play?

Although the doctrine of “buyer beware” has been chipped away with fraud and breach of contract claims, it still has a place in the law. Unless the product peddled has no effectiveness whatsoever, and the seller knows this and conceals the truth, there probably isn’t much of a lawsuit to be had.

Surely, JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing) can find a person who was “cured,” or thinks he was cured, by the therapy. In fact, here’s one. JONAH’s argument in court will likely be something along the lines of no therapy is perfect, there are no guarantees in any psychological or spiritual treatment, etc.

They would be correct about that. No psychologist or therapist (alternitive or mainstream) is going to guarantee success, just as no doctor or lawyer would. The bottom line is that whether or not JONAH is liable for fraud will depend on the sales technique used by JONAH to recruit customers. If they made overly broad promises or guarantees, they may have committed fraud. If they merely spoke positively about the effects of their treatment (we call that puffery), it’s simply good salesmanship.

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