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Parks v. Francoeur

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

January 9, 2014



Nancy Mills, Justice

Jury-waived trial was held on the plaintiff's complaint for defamation. The plaintiff seeks damages for emotional and physical injuries. He offered no proof of special harm.

The court has considered the testimony of the witnesses who testified at trial[1] and the deposition testimony. (Pl.'s Exs. 1 & 2.) For the following reasons, judgment is entered in favor of the defendant and against the plaintiff on the plaintiff's complaint.

Findings of Fact

The plaintiff is 68 years old. He worked at S.D. Warren for 38 years, beginning in 1966 and retired in 2004. He was active in the union and served as Shop Steward and later as Chief Shop Steward.

He has been married to Judith Parks for 51 years. They married in July 1962 and raised their three children together. He described his wife as the person who "is, was, and always will be the one and only love of his life." He has always been faithful to Judith and never indicated, implied, or suggested that he had been unfaithful. He is an active member of his church; he understands that marriage is a holy sacrament and means that one person commits himself to another for life. Adultery or coveting another person's wife or goods is not allowed.

The plaintiff met the defendant on March 7, 1966. The plaintiffs brother-in-law, who is the defendant's first cousin, introduced the plaintiff and the defendant. The plaintiff always considered the defendant a friend. They served as union officers together and got along well. The plaintiff always trusted the defendant and had no union or personal problems with him.

William Carver served as Union President in the mid-1970s and was a personal friend of the plaintiff's. When Mr. Carver died, the plaintiff attended the wake on June 5, 2010. The plaintiff spoke with Mr. Carver's wife, siblings, and children. Later, the plaintiff spoke with people he knew and sat in a row of chairs with Norman Fickett and the defendant. The defendant sat between the plaintiff and Mr. Fickett. The plaintiff then moved two or three seats to speak to others, including Messrs. Rondo, Fickett, and Lessards. After Mr. Rondo left to go to work, the plaintiff conversed with Messrs. Fickett and Lessards.

The plaintiff alleges at that time, he heard the defendant state, "he had an affair with Nancy York." The plaintiff testified that he knew the voice and that the defendant sat there, with his mouth puckered, looking straight ahead. The plaintiff testified that it was like the defendant "knew this about me and thought everyone should hear." The plaintiff assumed and understood the comment was about him. The comment was made loudly enough for Mr. Fickett and the plaintiff to hear. The plaintiff did not know who else heard the comment. The plaintiff testified that when the comment was made, Mr. Fickett raised his hand as if to say, "I do not want to hear that; I do not want to be part of that." The plaintiff testified that he spoke to Mr. Fickett about the comment. The plaintiff does not know whether the comment was repeated to anyone else at other times.

The plaintiff testified that after the comment, his heart was beating and he waited for the beating to diminish. He testified he did not know what to do. He did not confront the defendant at the time because they were in a funeral parlor.

Nancy York worked at the mill beginning in 1976 and was on the plaintiff's crew for six or seven years. He represented her in union matters, as he did all hourly workers. She left the mill in 1988 based on medical disability for multiple sclerosis. The plaintiff considered her a friend and visited her a number of times at the nursing homes where she resided and called to learn how she was doing. She died in September 1996. The plaintiff attended her wake.

The plaintiff testified the comment about Nancy York was not true. He stated he "never, ever" had sexual relations with her and he gave no permission to the defendant to make the comment.

As a result of the comment the plaintiff attributed to the defendant, the plaintiff testified that he suffered mental and physical issues. He lost motivation, concentration, and the ability to sleep as he did previously. He smokes more than previously and has lost weight. His interaction with his wife has been affected. They do not go on vacations and do not go out.

The plaintiff was unable to put the matter behind him; he determined there must be a reason why the comment was made and he continued to be affected. Finally, in April 2012, he decided to consult his doctor, John Meserve, M.D., who referred the plaintiff for a neurologic exam. (Pl.'s Ex. 1.) The doctors determined the plaintiff's tremor was not a neurological issue but the result of stress and anxiety caused by the defamatory statement. (Pl.'s Ex. 1 at 13, 16, 25, 28-30.) Medicine resolved the tremor but the stress was not resolved. (Pl.'s Ex. 1 at 16-17.) The plaintiff was not interested in continuing any medication. (Pl.'s Ex 1 at ...

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