The Scientology Money Project

The Death of Dr. Susan Booth – Part 3: How are Financial Damage Awards Impacted When a Person Donates 83% of Their $250,000 Salary to Scientology?

After Dr. Susan Booth died in the plane crash on August 5, 2001 in Weaverville, California her family sued for wrongful death, emotional, and financial damages. In the American legal system, the only way to recompense a person’s family for their wrongful death is to award the family financial damages. But this can only happen if the family can prove that another party caused their death. This requires a court trial where the evidence is considered in a jury trial or by a “bench trial” in which no jury is present and the judge is the sole finder of fact and trier of law.

Susan Booth’s family sued the US Government and Trinity County, California and alleged they caused her wrongful death. Both the US Government and Trinity County filed a counterclaim and alleged that Susan Booth’s father Dr. Mark Sajjadi caused her death by his utter negligence as the pilot of the aircraft which crashed and killed his daughter.


Financial damage calculations in wrongful death cases can be quite complex. However, the calculations in this case began by first determining how much money Susan Booth, a dentist, would have made over the course of her working life had she not died.

Based upon her yearly earnings in the 2-4 years prior to her death, Susan Booth’s family was seeking $10.7 million in “special damages.” Special damages are lost income as opposed to general damages which take the emotional damages of the loss of a spouse, a mother, and a daughter into account.

The $10.7 million could have been calculated in a number of ways as there are different formulas used in wrongful death lawsuits. The legal document above defines special damages as “Value of loss of support to Steve Funderburg and his stepson Mark Booth.”

With the passing of his ex-wife, Mark Booth’s natural father was in a position to take over complete custody of his son Mark and so this would have become an issue at trial. If Mark’s father took over 100% of his support, then there was arguably no financial loss to Mark as a minor child. Moreover, Mark Booth’s father was already paying his ex-wife Susan Booth $3,000 per month for child support.

The special damages calculations likely assumed  Dr. Susan Booth would have worked until age 65. The $10.7 million figure, apparently, assumed she would have grossed $510,000 a year from 44 years of age until 65. This figure was not supported by her past income, but there were likely factors for inflation and the growth of her dental practice. These matters are argued at trial.


In calculating special damages, i.e. loss of income, a person’s “personal consumption” has to be deducted. “Personal consumption” is defined as the money a person spends on things other than directly supporting their family, i.e. it is the money they spend on themselves or spend on things other than their family.

For example, a married person could easily spend $50,000 a year on an expensive hobby such as watch collecting; making monthly car and insurance payments on a Porsche, Bentley, Rolls Royce, or other expensive luxury car; making monthly payments on a luxury yacht or sailboat; donating to political causes; taking regular cruises at sea; engaging in high dollar competitive poker playing; expensive spending on clothing, jewelry, and luxury cars, etc.

This is where the Booth case gets interesting and complex:

  1. All personal consumption spending on hobbies, causes, and other pursuits that do not go to directly supporting one’s family are deducted from financial damages.
  2. This includes donations to the decedent’s religion. The legal implication of calculating personal consumption is that it can reduce financial damages at trial.
  3.  In the case of Susan Booth, court documents show she donated an incredible 82.9% of her income to the Church of Scientology:

(Scroll down to read the PDF of the court document with the full documentation on Susan Booth’s contributions to Scientology)

The defendants argued that Susan Booth’s donations to the Church of Scientology should be admitted as evidence at trial and deducted from the financial damages calculations. If this had been done, her family’s claim for special damages would have been significantly reduced.

The Defendants broke it down into three arguments: 

To buttress its arguments, the defendants entered sections of the book What is Scientology? into the court record. The excerpts can be seen in the document below.

David Rand, the attorney for the Estate of Susan Booth, argued that Susan Booth had fully paid in advance for her auditing levels above Clear and so she would not need to donate further for her Bridge. He further argued that the Super Power Building to which Dr. Booth had donated would soon be completed and her donations to that would end as well.

In making such declarations, attorney Rand showed just how incredibly naive he was in the ways of the Church of Scientology. There is never a point at which Scientology tells any of its members, “Okay. You’re paid up for everything, We will never ask you for money again.”

Moreover, when a Scientologist dies the money they “had on account” is not returned to their family. Scientology keeps the money dead people have remaining on the books as advanced payments. This is Scientology’s standard policy and has been for decades.

The Church of Scientology even puts its own Sea Org members into debt by demanding tens of thousands of dollars in donations from these people who earn $50 a week or less. There is no end to Scientology’s demands for money from its members for IAS statuses, the Ideal Orgs, social betterment scams, LRH Libraries, the L’s, and everything else it sells. Had Susan Booth lived, Scientology would never have stopped its demands to her for more money.

The nonstop greed in Scientology has bankrupted numerous Scientologists; driven credit card fraud schemes in the Sea Org; and pushed Scientologists to sacrifice their futures and that of their children based upon L. Ron Hubbard’s demand for “new money” each and every week. L Ron Hubbard:

“Advanced Courses [in Scientology] are the most valuable service on the planet. Life insurance, houses, cars, stocks, bonds, college savings, all are transitory and impermanent… There is nothing to compare with Advanced Courses. They are infinitely valuable and transcend time itself.” – L. Ron Hubbard, Flag Mission Order 3

The case would rage on for several more years before being settled. In the next article we examine the subject of Scientology preclear folders and how they played into the Susan Booth case.

The Court Document:

2 replies »

  1. 82.9%! That leaves about $85k of the supposed $500k, then add the $36k for the kid, which would be more than enough to live on in most states, if you didn’t have any other expensive hobbies or medical issues.
    82.9%! COB must be very pleased with the squeeze. The Mormons get by on an eighth of that.

  2. I remember rumors of this after I’d left staff but was still sometimes getting suckered into volunteering to help with things (like CF or all-hands bulk mail). Steve was the Academy Supervisor and Susan was primarily receiving auditing. Mark would be hanging around with staff while waiting on them. They seemed the classic Scientology staff member + sugar daddy/mommy setup.

    How did they manage to keep Mark’s father out of all this, keep him from getting custody of Mark, keep him from being listed as parent and guardian of the plaintiff?

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