United States District Court, D. Maine
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
HEARTS WITH HAITI INC, MICHAEL GEILENFELD, Individually and
in his capacity as Executive Director of St Joseph Family of
Haiti on behalf of St Joseph Family of Haiti and its
residents (per Order #84 acting in Individual Capacity Only),
Plaintiffs: PETER J. DETROY, III, RUSSELL PIERCE, LEAD
ATTORNEYS, DEVIN W. DEANE, NORMAN, HANSON & DETROY, PORTLAND,
PAUL KENDRICK, Defendant: COLIN E. HOWARD, DAVID C. KING, F.
DAVID WALKER, IV, RUDMAN & WINCHELL, BANGOR, ME.
G DIRKSEN, Movant, Pro se, SUWANEE, GA.
ON DEFENDANT'S RULE 59 MOTION FOR A NEW TRIAL OR
ALTERNATIVE POST-JUDGMENT RELIEF AND PLAINTIFFS' RULE
59(e) MOTION TO ALTER OR AMEND JUDGMENT TO INCLUDE PRE- AND
POST-JUDGMENT INTEREST, TO INCLUDE THE APRIL 22, 2015
SANCTION, AND TO REFLECT DISMISSAL WITHOUT PREJUDICE OF
PLAINTIFFS' PUNITIVE DAMAGES CLAIMS
WOODCOCK, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
point, Paul Kendrick, a passionate and relentless advocate
for abused children, became convinced that Michael
Geilenfeld, the founder and owner of an orphanage for boys in
Haiti, had been sexually abusing some of the boys in his
care. Mr. Kendrick not only accused Mr. Geilenfeld of sexual
misconduct but also charged Hearts with Haiti, a United
States not-for-profit corporation created to raise funds for
Mr. Geilenfeld's orphanage, with enabling Mr.
Geilenfeld's predation. Mr. Geilenfeld and Hearts with
Haiti sued Mr. Kendrick in federal court in Maine under
various legal theories, most notably defamation.
little more than two years later, after a rancorous discovery
period, the case went to trial on July 6, 2015. It was an
emotional and contentious trial. The parties called
twenty-five witnesses and introduced over two hundred
exhibits into evidence. Mr. Geilenfeld took the stand and
steadfastly denied the charges of child sex abuse; numerous
witnesses involved in the orphanage either directly or as
fundraisers testified for him. In addition to his own
testimony, Mr. Kendrick called seven men as witnesses who
testified either in court or by deposition that Mr.
Geilenfeld had in fact sexually abused them. With the
evidence in irreconcilable conflict, the parties presented
the case for resolution to the jury.
23, 2015, after thirteen days of testimony, the jury rendered
a verdict that represented a resounding vindication for Mr.
Geilenfeld. The jury found that Mr. Kendrick had negligently
defamed Mr. Geilenfeld and Hearts with Haiti, that he had
defamed them knowing that the statements were false or making
the statements with reckless disregard to their truth, that
he tortiously interfered with their advantageous economic
relations, and that he had placed Mr. Geilenfeld in a false
light. The jury awarded $7,000,000 to Mr. Geilenfeld and
$7,500,000 to Hearts with Haiti.
motions followed. Mr. Kendrick seeks a new trial based on
asserted legal errors committed by the trial court, demands a
steep reduction in the amount of the verdicts, which he
contends are excessive, and asks the Court to rescind its
earlier sanction order that imposed an $8,000 penalty against
Mr. Kendrick. Despite their unconditional victory, the
Plaintiffs are not satisfied either. They filed their own
post-trial motion, demanding pre- and post-judgment interest,
urging the Court to retain its earlier sanction order of
$8,000, and rankling at the Court's dismissal of their
punitive damages count with prejudice.
for the motion to revisit the sanctions order, the Court
denies Mr. Kendrick's motions. The Court is not convinced
that it erred in allowing the Plaintiffs to present evidence
that Mr. Kendrick's tortious conduct caused Mr.
Geilenfeld's arrest and imprisonment in Haiti. Turning to
the damages awards, the Court will not disturb the considered
and unanimous judgment of a federal jury. In the exercise of
its discretion, the Court grants the motion to rescind the
$8,000 sanction for Mr. Kendrick's discovery violation
with the sole caveat that if the verdict
is substantially altered, the Plaintiffs may return to the
Court and reargue the sanctions issue. The Court also grants
the Plaintiffs pre- and post-judgment interest as provided by
Maine law, excluding a period of prejudgment interest caused
by the Plaintiffs' requested continuances. The Court
declines to dismiss the punitive damages count without
prejudice unless the verdicts that precipitated the
Plaintiffs' decision not to proceed with the punitive
damages count are substantially revised.
With Haiti (HWH) is a nonprofit corporation with a mission to
provide support to disabled and disadvantaged Haitian
children. Compl. at 1 (ECF No. 1) ( Compl.
). Michael Geilenfeld, a resident of Pé tion--Ville
Commune, Port--au--Prince Arrondissement, Republic of Haiti,
is the founder and Executive Director of St. Joseph Family of
Haiti. Id. ¶ 2. Mr. Geilenfeld has been
involved with several organizations that help Haitian
children in different ways. Id. ¶ ¶ 7-39.
HWH was established in 2001 to support these organizations.
Id. ¶ ¶ 40-42.
Kendrick is a resident of Freeport, Maine. Id.
¶ 3. In 2011, after Mr. Kendrick became aware of
allegations that Mr. Geilenfeld was abusing Haitian children,
according to Mr. Kendrick, he believed the allegations to be
true. Mr. Kendrick then engaged in a campaign in which he
emailed and published statements to warn numerous third
parties about Mr. Geilenfeld's alleged abuse of children;
those third parties included benefactors of HWH. Id.
¶ ¶ 47-67. See also Order Denying Def.'s
Mot. for Partial Summ. J., at 4-42 (ECF No. 237) (
Partial Summ. J. Order ) (recounting examples of Mr.
Kendrick's communications). Mr. Kendrick also accused HWH
of funding Mr. Geilenfeld's alleged sexual abuse and
turning a blind eye to the child sexual abuse allegations
despite knowing or having reason to know that Mr. Geilenfeld
was sexually abusing children. See Partial Summ. J.
Order at 4-42.
The Initiation of the Lawsuit
by what he claimed were Mr. Kendrick's false allegations
of child sexual abuse, on February 6, 2013, Mr. Geilenfeld
and HWH filed suit in this Court against Mr. Kendrick,
alleging he had defamed them, had placed Mr. Geilenfeld in a
false light, and had tortiously interfered with
advantageous business relations; the Plaintiffs sought
damages against Mr. Kendrick. Compl. at 1-20. On
March 8, 2013, Mr. Kendrick answered the Complaint, admitting
some and denying other allegations, and asserting, among
other affirmative defenses, the affirmative defense of truth
or lack of falsity. Defenses and Answer (ECF No. 8).
Delay Caused by Mr. Geilenfeld's Imprisonment
trial was originally scheduled to begin on October 7, 2014.
Trial List (ECF No. 231). On September 23, 2014,
counsel for the Plaintiffs informed the Court that Haitian
authorities had arrested Mr. Geilenfeld in Haiti and the
Plaintiffs asked the Court to continue the trial for ninety
days. Oral Mot. to Continue (ECF No. 260). On the
same day, the Court granted Mr. Geilenfeld's motion.
Oral Order Granting
Mot. to Continue Trial for 90 Days (ECF No. 261).
a sanctions hearing on January 30, 2015, the Court asked Mr.
Geilenfeld's lawyers about his status in Haiti. Tr.
of Proceedings 6:24-7:5 (ECF No. 292). Counsel confirmed
Mr. Geilenfeld remained imprisoned in Haiti. Id.
7:6-11:7. During subsequent telephone conferences with the
Court, the Plaintiffs acknowledged the practical fact that
the case could not go forward while Mr. Geilenfeld remained
in jail in Haiti. Plaintiffs' counsel informed the Court
that if Mr. Geilenfeld was released from jail, they could
need " just a short amount of time to be prepared for
trial." Id. 8:7-10.
a telephone conference on April 30, 2015, Mr.
Geilenfeld's lawyers informed the Court that Mr.
Geilenfeld had recently been released from Haitian prison,
and the case could proceed to trial. Min. Entry (ECF
No. 315). However, they asked for time to make certain that
Mr. Geilenfeld had recovered from his time in jail and to
perform some additional limited discovery. They asked that
the trial be set for July, 2015, and the Court accommodated
8, 2015, Plaintiffs filed a supplemental complaint.
Pls.' Suppl. Compl. and Demand for Jury Trial
(ECF No. 324). Although Plaintiffs' counsel suggested on
January 30, 2015 that they intended to bring a separate claim
for false imprisonment, the Supplemental Complaint included
only a fifth count for " Continuing Defamation and False
Light." Id. at 9.
Motion in Limine to Exclude References or Testimony Regarding
Mr. Kendrick's Imprisonment
pre-trial motion is particularly relevant given its
similarity to the argument put forward in the present motion.
On June 12, 2015, in the run-up to trial, Mr. Kendrick moved
in limine to exclude references or testimony regarding Mr.
Geilenfeld's imprisonment in Haiti. Def.'s Mot.
in Lim. to Exclude References or Test. Concerning
Imprisonment in Haiti or Pain and Suffering Therefrom
(ECF No. 354). Mr. Kendrick argued this testimony should be
because Mr. Geilenfeld has not pled the tort of malicious
prosecution, and because he cannot be permitted to do an end
run around the more difficult burdens of proof placed on a
plaintiff in a malicious prosecution case to try to obtain
malicious prosecution type damages based merely on the lesser
showing of the torts he has pled.
Id. at 1. Moreover, Mr. Kendrick underscored the
requirements for a malicious prosecution claim, including
that the proceedings at issue must have terminated in Mr.
Geilenfeld's favor, which Mr. Kendrick asserted had not
yet happened as regards the Haitian authority's actions
toward Mr. Geilenfeld. Id. at 1-3.
24, 2015, the Plaintiffs asserted, contrary to Mr.
Kendrick's motion, that there is a legally significant
distinction between malicious prosecution and defamation
actions and that " [t]here is no such thing as exclusive
'malicious prosecution' or 'imprisonment'
damages." Pls.' Mot. in Opp'n to Def.'s
Mot. to Exclude Evid. of Imprisonment in Haiti, at 1-3
(ECF No. 396). They believed their case was properly brought
as a defamation case. Id. at 4. They also insisted
that " [d]amages suffered at the hands of a third-party
who acts upon a defamatory statement, like the Haitian
authorities who imprisoned Geilenfeld, are recoverable in a
defamation action." Id.
2, 2015, the Court denied Mr. Kendrick's motion.
Order on Def.'s Mot. in Lim. to Exclude References or
Test. Concerning Imprisonment in Haiti or Pain and Suffering
Therefrom and on Pls.' Mot. in Limine to Include the
Test. of Alain Lemithe (ECF No. 431) (
Order ). The Court discussed at length and did not
find germane the two principal cases on which Mr. Kendrick
relied;  far from supporting " the
contention that a defamation action may not state a claim for
[arrest and imprisonment] damages," the Court held those
cases stand for " the rather fundamental proposition
that a plaintiff may not bring suit under a theory that does
not fit the facts of the case." Id. at 14.
" As any law student who has taken a torts examination
knows," the Court wrote, " a variety of tort claims
may be grounded on the same nucleus of facts."
Id. at 15. That being the case, the Court concluded
if Mr. Geilenfeld successfully proves his defamation claim,
the jury will consider whether to award him damages for
" mental suffering, humiliation, embarrassment, effect
upon reputation and loss of social standing,"
Saunders v. VanPelt, 497 A.2d 1121, 1126 (Me. 1985),
" which are presumed to flow naturally, proximately and
necessarily from publication of the slander."
Farrell v. Kramer, 159 Me. 387, 390, 193 A.2d 560,
562 (1963). Mr. Kendrick has not adequately explained why the
jury could not consider whether Mr. Geilenfeld is entitled to
damages for any mental suffering, humiliation, embarrassment,
and/or effect on his reputation and loss of social standing
as a result of his imprisonment in Haiti.
Id. at 16.
Trial and Verdict
jury trial commenced on July 6, 2015. Tr. of Proceedings
I (ECF No. 484). On July 14, 2015, Mr. Geilenfeld
testified at length regarding his imprisonment in Haiti.
Tr. of Proceedings VII 21:2-42:3, 46:25-48:12 (ECF
No. 452) ( Tr. VII ). On July 23, 2015, the jury
returned a verdict for the Plaintiffs: the jury awarded
$2,500,000 on the defamation claim and $5,000,000 on the
intentional interference claim to HWH, and it awarded
$7,000,000 on the defamation, false light, and intentional
interference claims to Mr. Geilenfeld. Jury Verdict Form
as to Michael Geilenfeld (ECF No. 474) ( Geilenfeld
Jury Verdict ); Jury Verdict Form as to Hearts with
Haiti (ECF No. 475) ( HWH Jury Verdict );
J. (ECF No. 480) ( J. ).
THE PARTIES' POSITIONS
Defendant's Post-Trial Motion
August 20, 2015, Mr. Kendrick moved pursuant Rule 59 for a
new trial or alternative post-judgment relief. Def.'s
Rule 59 Mot. for a New Trial or Alternative Other Post-J.
Relief (ECF No. 488) ( Def.'s Mot. ). Mr.
Kendrick's motion presents this question: " whether
under Maine common law, a defendant may be held liable for
damages for the suffering of a plaintiff in jail when the
plaintiff has not been acquitted from the criminal charges
leveled against him that put him in jail as a result of the
alleged defamation." Id. at 2. Mr. Kendrick
contends it was error for the Court to admit evidence
regarding Mr. Geilenfeld's imprisonment for several
reasons: first, " under the Restatement damages
for emotional distress due to wrongful incarceration are not
recoverable in an action for defamation" ; second,
" case law supports the principle that a plaintiff
cannot avoid having to satisfy the elements of a malicious
prosecution claim by disguising it as a different tort"
; third, " public policy opposes exposing citizens to
liability for incarceration damages on just the lesser proof
needed to support a defamation claim" ; and lastly, Mr.
that the contested evidence, once admitted, still " did
not support a jury finding that a defamatory statement made
by Mr. Kendrick caused Mr. Geilenfeld to be arrested."
Id. at 4. Moreover, given the " dramatic and
compelling" nature of the evidence, Mr. Kendrick submits
that the error was harmful and that the proper remedy is a
new trial because the " testimony went as much to
liability as to damages." Id. at 11. Likewise,
Mr. Kendrick requests a new trial as regards his liability to
HWH. Id. at 13-16.
the Court holds to its earlier position that the evidence of
Mr. Geilenfeld's imprisonment was properly admitted, Mr.
Kendrick urges that " justice nonetheless requires that
the Court condition a denial of a new trial as to Mr.
Geilenfeld on both actual and presumed damages on Mr.
Geilenfeld's acceptance of a remittitur of $100,000 in
presumed damages . . . ." Id. at 18.
Mr. Kendrick asks the Court to reconsider the $8,000 sanction
imposed for violation of the Consent Confidentiality Order.
Id. at 19. Given " the size of the verdicts in
this case," " the law's disdain for excessive
fines," and the fact that " the years in which the
jury found Mr. Kendrick's conduct gave rise to liability
on Plaintiffs' claims overlap with the timing of events
for which the Court found him to have violated the Consent
Confidentiality Order," Mr. Kendrick argues that the
sanction " is unnecessary to remedy any harm caused to
Plaintiffs by Mr. Kendrick's contempt of court."
Def.'s Mot. at 19.
Plaintiffs assert that " the Court correctly allowed
Plaintiff Geilenfeld to testify about his incarceration in a
Haitian prison, and correctly declined an instruction that
would have told the jury to disregard that testimony."
Pls.' Resp. in Opp'n to Def.'s Rule 59 Mot.
for New Trial, at 2 (ECF No. 492) ( Pls.'
Opp'n ). They argue that Mr. Kendrick's
post-trial motion essentially reiterates the theory--i.e.,
damages for wrongful imprisonment require the claim to be
brought under malicious prosecution--that the Court rejected
in the pre-trial motion discussed above, and that such
reiteration contravenes Rule 59 doctrine. Id. at 3
(citing National Metal Finishing Co. v.
BarclaysAmerican/Commercial, Inc., 899 F.2d 119 (1st
Cir. 1990)). The new cases Mr. Kendrick cites for this same
theory, according to Plaintiffs, are " almost completely
irrelevant." Id. at 5. Plaintiffs push against
the substantive thrust of Mr. Kendrick's argument by
stating that " Geilenfeld is entitled to recover the
damages that flow naturally and proximately from
Defendant's tortious conduct." Id. at 7.
They also contend that Mr. Kendrick's public policy
argument, raised for the first time at the post-trial stage,
is for that reason waived and would be a losing argument
regardless. Id. at 6 n.2, 7.
claim Mr. Kendrick " is not entitled to a new trial . .
. on the issue of causation" because there was "
overwhelming" evidence that Mr. Kendrick caused Mr.
Geilenfeld's imprisonment and there was " no break
in the 'causal chain.'"  Id. at
arguing against Mr. Kendrick's alternative relief of
remittitur or a new trial, Plaintiffs claim " [t]he
verdict was not improper." Id. at 15. Although
" Geilenfeld had been previously accused," he had
been " exonerated on each occasion." Id.
Moreover, " [t]he law provides . . . one who repeats or
otherwise republishes defamatory matter is subject to
liability as if he had originally published it."
Id. (citing Elms v. Crane, 118 Me. 261, 107
A. 852, 854 (1919) (quoting Davis v. Starrett, 97
Me. 568, 576, 55 A. 516, 519 (1903)); Restatement
(Second) of Torts § 578 (Am. Law Inst. 1997).
Plaintiffs also claim " [t]he verdict was not
excessive." Id. at 16. The question, as they
see it, is " whether the evidence in this case
supports the award." Id. at 17 (emphasis in
original) (citing Bielunas v. F/V Misty Dawn, Inc.,
621 F.3d 72, 82 (1st Cir. 2010)). With regard to the damages
suffered by Mr. Geilenfeld, they say " [i]t is difficult
to imagine a damages verdict that would be excessive or
irrational on these facts." Id. With regard to
the tortious interference damages incurred by HWH, they point
to Geoffrey Hamlyn's comparative statistical analysis as
evidence that the jury's award is " far from
speculation." Id. at 18-19. Finally, Plaintiffs
argue the verdict was not " tainted" because the
jury " was properly instructed by the Court to separate
its liability determination and damages valuations and to
evaluate each Plaintiff's claims separately."
Id. at 19-20.
Kendrick first addresses matters of procedure. He emphasizes
that both (1) his erroneous admission of evidence claim and
(2) his sufficiency of evidence claim are properly brought
under Rule 59. Def.'s Mem. in Reply to Pls.'
Resp. in Opp'n to Def.'s Rule 59 Mot. for New
Trial, at 2 (ECF No. 496) ( Def.'s Reply ).
On the former, he notes that though the issue has been
preserved for appeal, he thinks it is " appropriate to
give the trial court the opportunity in the context of a Rule
59 motion for a new trial to comment on whether if the
evidence was improperly admitted, there should be a new
trial." Id. As a final procedural matter, Mr.
Kendrick points out that--contrary to Plaintiffs'
assertion in their opposition--he did ask for the liability
and damages issues to be bifurcated. Id. at 4.
Mr. Kendrick believes Plaintiffs " simply fail to
address" his basic argument that, as a matter of law and
public policy, wrongful imprisonment damages are unavailable
in a defamation lawsuit, and that this is especially true
where this is an ongoing criminal procedure regarding the
claims at issue in this case. Id. at 3. Mr. Kendrick
concedes that he can " point to no case directly on
point . . . ." Id. Nonetheless, he cites
authorities " that he thinks fairly stand for a general
common-law principle" underlying his argument, which
Plaintiffs' authorities do not even " remotely
Plaintiffs' Post-Trial Motion
August 21, 2015, the day after Mr. Kendrick filed his
post-trial motion, the Plaintiffs filed a post-trial motion
of their own. Pls.' Rule 59(e) Mot. to Alter or Amend
J. to Include Pre- and Post-J. Interest, to Include the April
22, 2015 Sanction,
and to Reflect Dismissal Without Prejudice of Pls.'
Punitive Damages Claims (ECF No. 489) ( Pls.'
Mot. ). Plaintiffs contend that they are entitled to
prejudgment interest under Maine law in the amount of 3.16%
calculated daily from February 6, 2013 until September 23,
2014 and again from December 23, 2014 until July 24, 2015,
with a hiatus for the ninety-day continuance of trial
following Mr. Geilenfeld's detention in Haiti.
Id. at 1-3. They also claim entitlement to
post-judgment interest under federal law in the amount of
.28% calculated daily and compounded annually beginning the
date of judgment: July 24, 2015. Id. at 3.
sanctions, the Plaintiffs detail Mr. Kendrick's long
history of violations by reminding the Court that the $8,000
sanction " was the third sanction and the second
monetary fine against Mr. Kendrick, and the culmination of
three motions for sanctions necessitated by what can only be
characterized as a knowing and intentional disregard of the
Court's non-dissemination confidentiality orders
governing discovery." Id. at 4. Moreover,
because the Plaintiffs view the sanction as penal rather than
compensatory, they argue it cannot be seen as duplicative of
the compensatory damages awarded by the jury. Id. at
8. The Plaintiffs point out two factors they believe prevent
the sanction from falling foul of the Eighth Amendment's
Excessive Fines Clause: (1) the sanction accounts for less
than one-third of the attorney fees the Plaintiffs incurred
as a consequence of their sanctions motions; and (2) Mr.
Kendrick's position as a " college-educated
professional" means he has the ability to pay the
sanction. Id. at 8-10.
withdrawing their punitive damages claim upon hearing the
jury's substantial compensatory damages verdict,
Plaintiffs now " move the Court to amend the Judgment to
reflect that Count IV of their complaint was dismissed
without prejudice." Id. at 11
(emphasis in original).
Kendrick argues that there is an " established
common-law rule" against prejudgment interest on
defamation claims for non-economic damages; that the rule
" comports with the twin purposes under Maine law for
awarding prejudgment interest," i.e., compensating
plaintiffs for their inability to use money between the dates
of filing and judgment, and encouraging defendants to settle
meritorious claims against them; and that Maine has not
abrogated the rule. Def.'s Obj. and Opp'n Mem. to
Pls.' Rule 59(e) Mot. to Alter or Amend J. at 1-4
(ECF No. 495) ( Def.'s Opp'n ). Even if
prejudgment interest were available on such claims, Mr.
Kendrick notes that the " jury found by special verdict
that the years in which [his] conduct giving rise to
defamation took place included 2013, 2014, and 2015" and
argues it would therefore be unjust to award prejudgment
interest for injuries the Plaintiffs " suffered as a
result of conduct that did not even occur until years after
the case was filed." Id. at 3. He then makes
the same argument with regard to prejudgment interest for
HWH's tortious interference claim. Id. at 4.
the Court's discretion to premise dismissal of a claim on
the condition that it does so with prejudice, and given the
Plaintiffs' eleventh hour dismissal of a claim on which
the parties had already spent significant time and resources,
Mr. Kendrick urges the Court to let its dismissal of punitive
damages with prejudice stand. Id. at 5-6.
Kendrick objects to Plaintiffs' insistence that he pay
the sanction, noting it " make[s] no sense for the
Plaintiffs to so strenuously demand on principles of penal
justice that [he] be punished by another
$8,000, when the Plaintiffs waived punitive damages that
likely would have far exceeded that figure, and when in the
Motion they profess that they have no taste for punishing
[him]." Id. at 7.