Argued: December 11, 2018
David Walker, IV, Esq., Brent A. Singer, Esq. (orally), and
Jonathan P. Hunter, Esq., Rudman Winchell, Bangor, for
appellant Paul Kendrick
Russell B. Pierce, Jr., Esq. (orally), and David A. Goldman,
Esq., Norman, Hanson & DeTroy, LLC, Portland, for
cross-appellants Hearts with Haiti, Inc., and Michael
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HJELM,
Hearts with Haiti, Inc., and Michael Geilenfeld (collectively
"HWH") filed a multicount complaint alleging
defamation, false light, tortious interference with
advantageous business relationships, and intentional
infliction of emotional distress by Paul Kendrick. Kendrick
subsequently filed a special motion to dismiss pursuant to
Maine's anti-strategic lawsuit against public
participation statute (anti-SLAPP statute), 14 M.R.S. §
556 (2018). Kendrick also moved for partial judgment on the
pleadings based on the statute of limitations, 14 M.R.S.
§ 753 (2018), and for dismissal of HWH's intentional
infliction of emotional distress claim on the ground that the
claim was subsumed by HWH's defamation claim.
See M.R. Civ. P. 12(c). The Superior Court
(Cumberland County, Mills, /.) denied Kendrick's
special motion to dismiss and his motion for partial judgment
based on the statute of limitations, but it granted in part
his motion for partial judgment by dismissing HWH's
intentional infliction of emotional distress claim.
Kendrick appeals from the court's order denying his
special motion to dismiss pursuant to the anti-SLAPP statute
and the portion of the court's order denying his motion
for partial judgment on the pleadings based on the statute of
limitations. HWH cross-appeals from the portion of the
court's order dismissing HWH's claim for intentional
infliction of emotional distress. Because we hold that
Kendrick's appeal and HWH's cross-appeal of the
court's order on the motion for partial judgment on the
pleadings are interlocutory, we address only the court's
denial of Kendrick's special motion to dismiss.
Discerning no error, we affirm that part of the court's
judgment and remand the matter to the trial court.
The following facts are derived from HWH's complaint and
Kendrick's affidavit filed in conjunction with his
special motion to dismiss pursuant to the anti-SLAPP statute.
See Nader v. Me. Democratic Party (Nader II), 2013
ME 51, ¶ 2, 66 A.3d 571; Nader v. Me. Democratic
Party (Nader I), 2012 ME 57, ¶ 33, 41 A.3d 551.
Michael Geilenfeld, a United States citizen, founded the St.
Joseph's Home for Boys in Haiti, which provides residence
and schooling to disadvantaged children. Hearts with Haiti,
Inc., is a nonprofit organization registered in North
Carolina and supports St. Joseph's Home for Boys through
fundraising and mission trips. Paul Kendrick is a resident of
Freeport, Maine, who describes himself as a volunteer and
advocate who acts for the protection of children by bringing
those whom he alleges are perpetrators of sexual abuse to
Kendrick alleges that he received information that Geilenfeld
was sexually abusing children being cared for at St.
Joseph's in Haiti. Kendrick claims that he reached out to
HWH with this information but that HWH provided no assistance
in addressing these allegations. As a result, Kendrick began
to publicly speak out about the alleged sexual abuse for the
purpose of raising public awareness to pressure law
enforcement agencies into an investigation. Over the next
several years, Kendrick continuously contacted the donors of
both HWH and St. Joseph's with allegations that
Geilenfeld was sexually abusing children and that HWH was
complicit in covering up the abuse.
In February 2013, HWH filed a complaint in the United States
District Court for the District of Maine alleging that
Kendrick's actions have resulted in severe financial loss
as a result of decreased support and irreparable harm to its
reputation. After two years of litigation, a federal jury
found in favor of HWH, awarding a total of $14.5 million in
damages. Kendrick appealed to the United States Court of
Appeals for the First Circuit, but while the appeal was
pending it was discovered that the federal court lacked
subject matter jurisdiction from the outset, and the case was
ultimately dismissed. See Hearts with Haiti, Inc. v.
Kendrick, 192 F.Supp.3d 181, 184, 208 (D. Me. 2016).
In August 2016, HWH filed an almost identical complaint in
the Maine Superior Court (Cumberland County). In response,
Kendrick filed a motion for partial judgment on the pleading,
arguing that H WH's complaint was barred by the
applicable statute of limitations and that HWH's claim
for intentional infliction of emotional distress was subsumed
by its defamation claim. A stay was granted pending the
outcome of HWH's appeal of the dismissal in the federal
case, which was ultimately affirmed. See Hearts with
Haiti, Inc. v. Kendrick,856 F.3d 1, 4 (1st Cir. 2017).
Following the First Circuit's affirmance, Kendrick filed
a special motion to dismiss HWH's complaint in the
Superior Court pursuant to Maine's anti-SLAPP statute,
alleging that his activity was protected by the First
Amendment. The court denied Kendrick's special motion to
dismiss and his motion for partial judgment based on the
statute of limitations, but it partially granted his motion