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Camden National Bank v. Weintraub

Supreme Court of Maine

July 7, 2016

CAMDEN NATIONAL BANK
v.
ILENE F. WEINTRAUB et al.

          Argued: April 6, 2016

         Knox Superior Court docket number RE-2013-32 For Clerk Reference Only

         On the briefs:

          Daniel J. Murphy, Esq., Bernstein Shur, Portland, for appellant Camden National Bank

          Alicia F. Curtis, Esq., Berman & Simmons, P.A., Lewiston, and J. Kimball Hobbs, Esq., Bar Mills, for appellees Ilene F. Weintraub and Paul A. Weintraub

         At oral argument:

          Daniel J. Murphy, Esq., for appellant Camden National Bank

          J. Kimball Hobbs, Esq., for appellee Ilene F. Weintraub et al.

          Panel: ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          HUMPHREY, J.

         [¶1] Camden National Bank appeals from the Superior Court's (Knox County, Billings, J.) denial of its special motion to dismiss Ilene Weintraub's counterclaim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. See 14 M.R.S. § 556 (2015). On appeal, the Bank contends that the court erred in determining that section 556, Maine's "anti-SLAPP"[1] statute, prohibits selective dismissal of claims and in concluding that Weintraub met her burden of demonstrating a prima facie case of actual injury and causation. We clarify that the anti-SLAPP statute allows for dismissal of some but not all claims in a multi-count complaint, and we affirm the court's denial of the Bank's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The following facts, relevant to this appeal, are alleged in the parties' pleadings and are part of the motion record in this action. See Nader v. Me. Democratic Party (Nader II), 2013 ME 51, ¶ 2, 66 A.3d 571 (per curiam). Ilene Weintraub and her brother had two mortgage loans with the Bank, and, when they fell into arrears, Weintraub began receiving phone calls from the Bank's collections department. Weintraub alleged that a particular collections specialist was verbally abusive and rude to her. Another employee of the Bank attested in an affidavit that, during a phone call in August 2010, Weintraub stated that she "would like to murder" that collections specialist when the collections specialist calls. Concerned for her coworker's safety, the employee called the Rockport Police Department and reported Weintraub's threat. The police advised Weintraub that she was being investigated for criminal threatening, and they instructed her not to call the collections department but to conduct her banking business in person at a local branch, instead.

          [¶3] The Bank filed a complaint for foreclosure in July 2013, [2] and thereafter the parties engaged in the processes required by the foreclosure diversion program for nearly a year. In March 2014, Weintraub filed an amended answer bringing several counterclaims against the Bank, including violations of the Maine Consumer Credit Code, breach of contract, and a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. She alleged that, as a direct and proximate result of the abusive conduct of the collections department and the false accusation of criminal conduct, she suffered "physical and personal injuries" resulting in emotional distress and loss of enjoyment of life and requiring an increase of her diabetes medication. In April of 2014, the Bank filed a motion to dismiss these counterclaims but, in that motion, it did not rely on Maine's anti-SLAPP statute as a ground for dismissal. The court denied that motion on December 1, 2014.

         [¶4] Three weeks later, the Bank filed a motion for leave to file a special motion to dismiss, coupled with a special motion to dismiss pursuant to 14 M.R.S. § 556. The Bank argued in its special motion to dismiss that Maine's anti-SLAPP statute protects its right to make an accurate report to the police of matters of public safety without suffering the burden of a lawsuit, and that Weintraub's counterclaims were based on its exercise of petitioning rights. See Lynch v. Christie, 815 F.Supp.2d 341, 346 n.6 (D. Me. 2011) (stating that "reports to [law enforcement] . . . would clearly be covered [by the statute] as well"). Weintraub opposed the Bank's motion for leave to file on the ground that the special motion to dismiss was untimely.[3] After a hearing on several pending motions, Weintraub was granted leave to file amended counterclaims, and the Bank was granted leave to "reassert any pending motions, " including, presumably, its special motion to dismiss. In its renewed special motion to dismiss, the Bank requested dismissal of Count II, violation of Maine Consumer Credit Code, Count III, ...


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