Pan Am Systems v. Hardenberg

NOTE: The information and commentary contained in this database entry are based on court filings and other informational sources that may contain unproven allegations made by the parties. The truthfulness and accuracy of such information is likely to be in dispute. Information contained in this entry is current as of the last event mentioned in the "Description" section below; additional proceedings might have taken place in this matter since this event.

Summary

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

09/06/2011

Location: 

Maine

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

N/A
In September 2011, Pan Am Systems, Inc. (a railway transportation company), its subsidiary Springfield Terminal Railway Co., and its former President and CEO David Fink sued Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports (ANRP) for defamation and false light. The complaint also named... read full description
Parties

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Chalmers Hardenberg, C.M. Hardenberg, P.A., Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Location of Party: 

  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont

Location of Party: 

  • Maine

Legal Counsel: 

Preti Flaherty Beliveau & Pachios, LLP
Description

In September 2011, Pan Am Systems, Inc. (a railway transportation company), its subsidiary Springfield Terminal Railway Co., and its former President and CEO David Fink sued Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports (ANRP) for defamation and false light. The complaint also named Chalmers Hardenberg as owner, editor, and publisher of ANRP and C.M. Hardenberg, P.A., as an owner and principal of ANRP. The complaint alleged that the defendants distributed false and defamatory information about the plaintiffs through newsletters and e-bulletins. Among the information cited in the complaint were discussions of Pan Am's service and reliability, a Springfield Terminal derailment, and David Fink's removal from Pan Am.

Defendants subsequently filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, arguing, among other things, that as to the defamation claim: (1) the statements were true; (2) all of the plaintiffs were public figures, and there were insufficient allegations to support a claim of actual malice; (3) there were insufficient allegations of negligence; (4) some of the challenged statements were non-actionable opinion; and (5) some of the statements were protected by the fair report privilege. With respect to the false light claim, defendants argued that the statements were not "highly offensive," as required for such a claim, that corporations are not entitled to bring false light claims in Maine, and that the complaint did not adequately plead fault.

Plaintiffs opposed the motion to dismiss claiming, among other things, that: they had pleaded the existence of false statements of fact; it was inappropriate to resolve conditional privileges on a motion to dismiss; the existence of actual malice was a factual matter to be resolved after discovery; the plaintiffs were, in any event, private figures; and the defendants' statements did not involve matters of public concern, such that a claim for presumed damages could proceed without a showing of actual malice. Plaintiffs also argued that the individual plaintiff, Fink, had adequately pleaded a false light claim.

Details

Content Type: 

  • Text
  • Virtual

Publication Medium: 

Print
Other

Subject Area: 

  • Defamation
  • False Light
Court Information & Documents

Jurisdiction: 

  • Maine

Court Name: 

U.S. District Court, District of Maine

Court Type: 

Federal

Case Number: 

2:11-cv-00339-NT

Relevant Documents: