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Hearts With Haiti, Inc. v. Kendrick

United States District Court, D. Maine

July 1, 2015

HEARTS WITH HAITI, INC. and MICHAEL GEILENFELD, Plaintiffs,
v.
PAUL KENDRICK, Defendant.

ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION IN LIMINE TO EXCLUDE REFERENCES OR TESTIMONY CONCERNING ALLEGED SUFFERING OF INNOCENT CHILDREN CAUSED BY THE DEFENDANT

JOHN A. WOODCOCK, Jr., District Judge.

With trial scheduled to begin next week in this highly contentious action, the Defendant moves in limine to exclude any references or testimony concerning the alleged suffering of innocent Haitian children caused by the Defendant, unless the Court approves of such testimony outside the presence of the jury. The Court grants the motion to the extent that the Plaintiff may not bring a claim on behalf of the residents of his business or Haitian children generally. The Court denies the motion to the extent that the Plaintiff may attempt to obtain damages caused to his unincorporated business as a result of the Defendant's actions.

I. BACKGROUND

Over the last several years, Paul Kendrick has made numerous accusations against Michael Geilenfeld to various third parties, claiming that Mr. Geilenfeld is a child molester and that he has been sexually abusing children during his time as Executive Director of St. Joseph Family of Haiti. See Order Denying Def.'s Mot. for Partial Summ. J. at 4-42 (ECF No. 237) ( Order ) (recounting numerous examples of Mr. Kendrick's communications). According to the Plaintiffs' Complaint, St. Joseph Family of Haiti "operates a network of nonprofit institutions that provide residence, room and board, formal education, and religious education to disabled and disadvantaged Haitian children." Verified Compl. and Demand for Jury Trial ΒΆ 7 (ECF No. 1). In his Recommended Decision dated September 30, 2013, the Magistrate Judge quoted the Plaintiffs' representation that St. Joseph Family of Haiti "is simply the name under which Geilenfeld carries out his religious mission in Haiti." Recommended Decision on Mots. to Dismiss and Mem. Decision on Mots. to Stay Disc., to Seal, to File a Substitute Doc., to Exceed Page Limits, to Strike, and to Extend Disc. at 9 (ECF No. 73) ( Rec. Dec. ) (quoting Pls.' Objection and Mem. in Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss Pl. Michael Geilenfeld In His Capacity as Exec. Director of St. Joseph Family of Haiti on Behalf of St. Joseph Family of Haiti and its Residents' at 5) (ECF No. 56) ( Pls.' 2013 Opp'n )). In their July 22, 2013 memorandum, the Plaintiffs revealed that St. Joseph Family of Haiti is "an unincorporated Haitian organization." Pls.' 2013 Opp'n at 2.

The corporate Plaintiff in this case, Hearts With Haiti, Inc. (HWH), is a substantial financial contributor to St. Joseph Homes, and solicits and accepts donations throughout the United States. Order at 4. Mr. Kendrick has accused HWH of funding Mr. Geilenfeld's alleged sexual abuse, and of essentially turning a blind eye despite knowing that Mr. Geilenfeld was sexually abusing children. See id. at 4-42.

II. THE PARTIES' POSITIONS

A. Defendant's Motion

On June 12, 2015, Mr. Kendrick moved in limine to exclude

any reference or testimony in the presence of the jury concerning alleged hardships, plights, suffering, or the like, of St. Joseph Family of Haiti and its homes, schools, and dance troupe (collectively hereinafter "St. Joseph Family") and/or the children allegedly served by or cared for by St. Joseph Family, without first obtaining the permission of the Court outside the hearing of the jury.

Def.'s Mot. in Limine to Exclude References or Test. Concerning Alleged Suffering of Innocent Children Caused by the Def. at 1 (ECF No. 358). In support of his motion, Mr. Kendrick argues that St. Joseph Family and Haitian children are not parties in this case, the Plaintiffs do not have standing to represent their interests, and the Court has ruled as much in prior orders. Id. He also contends that any such reference or testimony should be excluded under Rules 401 and 403. Id. at 1-2 (citing Herrin v. Ensco Offshore Co., No. Civ.A. 00-3051, 2002 WL 465199, at *1 (E.D. La. Mar. 25, 2002)). In his view, Plaintiffs should be precluded from "try[ing] to inflame the passions of the jury against Mr. Kendrick with a parade of horribles of innocent children alleged to have been harmed by Mr. Geilenfeld's or [HWH]'s loss of support from donors or otherwise." Id. at 2. Mr. Kendrick acknowledges, however, that "some testimony as to the position and function of Mr. Geilenfeld with St. Joseph Family is necessary for the jury to make sense of the case, and that some testimony as to the purpose and operations of [HWH] is also necessary." Id.

B. Plaintiffs' Opposition

On June 24, 2015, the Plaintiffs responded in opposition. Pls.' Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. in Limine to Exclude Reference or Test. Concerning Alleged Suffering of Innocent Children Caused by the Def. (ECF No. 398). First, Plaintiffs argue that Mr. Kendrick misinterprets the Court's prior orders as to Mr. Geilenfeld's ability to "obtain damages caused to St. Joseph Family of Haiti" and, in fact, says the Court "held just the opposite." Id. at 1-2. Those orders, the Plaintiffs contend, held that Mr. Geilenfeld "may recover damages caused to St. Joseph Family of Haiti but must do so in his own name and not on behalf of' St. Joseph Family of Haiti." Id. at 2.

Second, the Plaintiffs assert that it was foreseeable to Mr. Kendrick, as well as intentional, that his actions would cause harm to Mr. Geilenfeld's "charitable operations in Haiti" and therefore, Mr. Geilenfeld is entitled to damages for such harm caused. Id. at 3. Plaintiffs provide some examples of such harm they intend to introduce at trial, and note that while this evidence is prejudicial to Mr. Kendrick, it is not unfairly prejudicial within the meaning of ...


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