Hoyle v. Dimond, No. 08-CV-347C.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
Writing for the CourtJohn T. Curtin
Citation612 F.Supp.2d 225
PartiesEric E. HOYLE, Plaintiff, v. Frederick DIMOND, Robert Dimond, and Most Holy Family Monastery, a New York Not-for-Profit Corporation, Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. 08-CV-347C.
Decision Date09 March 2009
612 F.Supp.2d 225
Eric E. HOYLE, Plaintiff,
v.
Frederick DIMOND, Robert Dimond, and Most Holy Family Monastery, a New York Not-for-Profit Corporation, Defendants.
No. 08-CV-347C.
United States District Court, W.D. New York.
March 9, 2009.

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COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

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Chamberlain D'Amanda Oppenheimer & Greenfield LLP (K. Wade Eaton, Esq., of Counsel), Rochester, NY, for Plaintiff.

Rupp, Baase, Pfalzgraf, Cunningham & Coppola LLC (Lisa A. Coppola, Esq., of Counsel), Buffalo, NY, for Defendants.

INTRODUCTION

JOHN T. CURTIN, District Judge.


In this case, plaintiff seeks damages and restitution from defendants, who operate the not-for-profit Most Holy Family Monastery

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("MHFM") in Fillmore, New York. According to the complaint, filed May 9, 2008, plaintiff entered the monastery on September 27, 2005 with the intention of becoming a Benedictine monk. He alleges that he later determined that MHFM was not a Benedictine monastery, and left on December 31, 2007. Plaintiff seeks to recover those monies he donated to MHFM in reliance on their representations regarding their affiliation with the Order of St. Benedict. Plaintiff has asserted causes of action for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, and money had and received (Item 1).

Defendants filed an answer to the complaint on June 9, 2008 (Item 5), and simultaneously filed motions to dismiss (Item 6) and for a preliminary injunction (Item 7). On July 16, 2008, plaintiff filed a motion to amend/correct the complaint (Item 20). In his proposed amended complaint, plaintiff seeks to add some factual allegations and to assert 10 causes of action—fraud, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, mandatory accounting, money had and received, violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1962(c) and (d), deceptive trade practices, false advertising, and vicarious liability of MHFM. In an order dated July 23, 2008, 2008 WL 2885918, the court granted the motion for preliminary injunctive relief and ordered plaintiff to "return to the defendants all confidential and proprietary records taken from [MHFM] in any form" and to remove confidential and proprietary information from any electronic storage devices in his possession (Item 23). Plaintiff was also instructed to report his compliance with the injunction to the court.

Plaintiff filed a response to the motion to dismiss (Item 26), and defendants filed a response to the motion to amend/correct (Item 25). Oral argument on both motions was heard on August 18, 2008.

On August 8, 2008, plaintiff filed an affidavit reporting his "efforts and success in complying with" the court's order (Item 30). Dissatisfied with both plaintiff's efforts and success, defendants filed a motion for contempt (Item 34). Plaintiff filed a response to the motion (Item 37), and a motion for sanctions pursuant to Fed. R.Civ.P. 11 (Item 40). For the following reasons, the defendants' motion to dismiss is denied, the plaintiffs motion to amend/correct the complaint is granted, the defendants' motion for contempt is denied, and the plaintiffs motion for Rule 11 sanctions is denied.

FACTS

In approximately 2005, plaintiff learned of the MHFM through research on the Internet (Item 1, ¶¶ 15, 16). He was told by defendant Frederick Dimond, who goes by the name Brother Michael Dimond, OSB, that MHFM dated to the 1960s and that defendant Frederick Dimond was a Benedictine monk who supervised the monastery (id. ¶¶ 18-29). In reliance on information provided by defendant Frederick Dimond, on April 4, 2005, plaintiff made a cash contribution to MHFM of $700.00, and on May 12, 2005, he made an additional cash contribution of $65,000.00 (id. ¶ 21). Plaintiff then made several visits to MHFM and decided to become a postulate under the auspices of Brother Michael and MHFM (id. ¶¶ 22-23). Defendant Frederick Dimond advised plaintiff that he would be required to turn over his worldly possessions to MHFM (id. ¶ 25).

Plaintiff entered the monastery on September 27, 2005 (Item 1, ¶ 26). On November 4, 2005, he transferred stock valued at $1.2 million to MHFM (id. ¶ 28). In late spring/summer of 2006, plaintiff executed a document that specified that he was to receive $750,000.00 if he left the monastery (id. ¶ 30). Subsequently, plaintiff learned that Brother Michael was not a

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member of the Order of Benedict, that MHFM was neither founded nor operated in accordance with the Order of Saint Benedict, and that he could not become a Benedictine monk through his association with MHFM (id. ¶¶ 31, 32). Plaintiff left MHFM on December 31, 2007 (id. ¶ 33). Defendants have refused a demand that all funds previously transferred to the defendants be returned to the plaintiff (id. ¶ 34).

DISCUSSION

1. Motion to Dismiss

Defendants contend that the complaint must be dismissed because this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.1 They base their argument on the First Amendment, applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibits the making of "law[s] respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . ." U.S. Constitution, 1st Amendment, 14th Amendment. Specifically, defendants argue that this dispute cannot be adjudicated without interpreting religious doctrine and that the court would necessarily be forced to define the term "Benedictine," to interpret the specific criteria required of a monastery to be considered Benedictine, and to determine what benefits MHFM could confer on the plaintiff. Plaintiff disputes that the court will be required to define and interpret religious doctrine and contends that the defendants misrepresented their affiliation with the Order of St. Benedict. He states that the "only issue to be decided with regard to the fraud claims is whether the defendants are, or are not, affiliated with the universally recognized and sanctioned Order of St. Benedict" (Item 26, p. 3).

Consistent with the First Amendment, courts are forbidden from interfering in or determining religious disputes. The Constitution directs that religious bodies are to be left free to decide church matters for themselves, uninhibited by state interference. Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese v. Milivojevich, 426 U.S. 696, 709, 96 S.Ct. 2372, 49 L.Ed.2d 151 (1976); Kedroff v. St. Nicholas Cathedral, 344 U.S. 94, 73 S.Ct. 143, 97 L.Ed. 120 (1952). The Constitution limits judicial involvement in disputes raising religious concerns, and courts are prohibited from resolving controversies which require consideration of religious doctrine. Avitzur v. Avitzur, 58 N.Y.2d 108, 459 N.Y.S.2d 572, 446 N.E.2d 136, 138, cert. denied, 464 U.S. 817, 104 S.Ct. 76, 78 L.Ed.2d 88 (1983); see also Presbyterian Church v. Mary Elizabeth Blue Hull Memorial Presbyterian Church, 393 U.S. 440, 449, 89 S.Ct. 601, 21 L.Ed.2d 658 (1969). "[C]ivil courts are bound to accept the decisions of the highest judicatories of a religious organization of hierarchical polity on matters of discipline, faith, internal organization, or ecclesiastical rule, custom, or law." Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese v. Milivojevich, 426 U.S. at 713, 96 S.Ct. 2372.

However, "courts are free to decide such disputes if they can do so without resolving underlying controversies over religious doctrine." Park Slope Jewish Center v. Congregation B'nai Jacob, 90 N.Y.2d 517, 664 N.Y.S.2d 236, 686 N.E.2d 1330, 1331 (1997). This "neutral principles of law" approach requires the court to apply objective, well-established principles of secular law to the issues, without reference to any religious principle. Avitzur, 459 N.Y.S.2d 572, 446 N.E.2d at 138.

The question that we must resolve in the case before us, therefore, is whether the dispute . . . is an ecclesiastical one about "discipline, faith, internal organization,

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or ecclesiastical rule, custom or law," or whether it is a case in which we should hold religious organizations liable in civil courts for "purely secular disputes between third parties and a particular defendant, albeit a religiously affiliated organization."

Bell v. Presbyterian Church, 126 F.3d 328, 331 (4th Cir.1997) (citations omitted).

A plaintiff asserting subject matter jurisdiction has the burden of establishing its existence by a preponderance of the evidence. See APWU v. Potter, 343 F.3d 619, 623 (2d Cir.2003); Lunney v. United States, 319 F.3d 550, 554 (2d Cir. 2003). When considering a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the court must accept the material factual allegations contained in the complaint. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974); Atlantic Mut. Ins. Co. v. Balfour Maclaine Int'l Ltd., 968 F.2d 196, 198 (2d Cir.1992). The court may consider evidence beyond the pleadings to resolve disputed issues of fact pertaining to its jurisdiction. See Flores v. S. Peru Copper Corp., 414 F.3d 233, 255 n. 30 (2d Cir.2003); Luckett v. Bure, 290 F.3d 493, 496-97 (2d Cir.2002). However, in this determination, the court should not draw any inferences favorable to plaintiff. See Balfour Maclaine, 968 F.2d at 198 (citing Norton v. Larney, 266 U.S. 511, 515, 45 S.Ct. 145, 69 L.Ed. 413 (1925)). "[J]urisdiction must be shown affirmatively, and that showing is not made by drawing from the pleadings inferences favorable to the party asserting it." Shipping Fin. Servs. Corp. v. Drakos, 140 F.3d 129, 131 (2d Cir.1998).

Accordingly, the court must accept the plaintiffs allegations that the defendants represented themselves as Benedictine monks and MHFM as a Benedictine monastery. The court must also accept the allegation that the defendants are not members of the recognized Order of St. Benedict, and that they convinced plaintiff to turn over his worldly possessions to them on the false promise that he could become a Benedictine monk at MHFM. Plaintiff states that the only issue to be decided is whether the defendants are affiliated with the universally recognized and...

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13 practice notes
  • Sky Med. Supply Inc. v. SCS Support Claims Servs., Inc., No. 12–CV–6383 JFBAKT.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • 7 Mayo 2014
    ...affairs, the inference of an agreement [to join the conspiracy] is unmistakable.”))); see also 17 F.Supp.3d 231Hoyle v. Dimond, 612 F.Supp.2d 225, 233 (W.D.N.Y.2009) (holding that plaintiff adequately alleged agreement between defendants to commit at least two predicate acts, where plaintif......
  • Sky Med. Supply Inc. v. SCS Support Claims Servs., Inc., No. 12–CV–6383 (JFB)(AKT).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • 7 Mayo 2014
    ...affairs, the inference of an agreement [to join the conspiracy] is unmistakable.”))); see also [17 F.Supp.3d 231] Hoyle v. Dimond, 612 F.Supp.2d 225, 233 (W.D.N.Y.2009) (holding that plaintiff adequately alleged agreement between defendants to commit at least two predicate acts, where plain......
  • Copantitla v. Fiskardo Estiatorio Inc. D/B/A Thalassa Rest., No. 09 Civ. 1608(RJH).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 27 Mayo 2011
    ...Broadcast Group, Inc., 175 A.D.2d 536, 572 N.Y.S.2d 796, 798–99 (N.Y.App.Div.1991). The one case that defendants cite, Hoyle v. Dimond, 612 F.Supp.2d 225, 231 (W.D.N.Y.2009), does not support the [788 F.Supp.2d 282] proposition that an employer can recover from its employees money that the ......
  • Kalimantano GmbH v. Motion in Time, Inc., No. 12 Civ. 6969(PAE).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 12 Abril 2013
    ...27, 474 N.E.2d 235 (1984). However, where a contract is not found, a plaintiff may obtain relief in quasi-contract. Hoyle v. Dimond, 612 F.Supp.2d 225, 231 (W.D.N.Y.2009) (“Although the existence of a valid and enforceable contract governing a particular subject matter generally precludes r......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
13 cases
  • Sky Med. Supply Inc. v. SCS Support Claims Servs., Inc., No. 12–CV–6383 JFBAKT.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • 7 Mayo 2014
    ...affairs, the inference of an agreement [to join the conspiracy] is unmistakable.”))); see also 17 F.Supp.3d 231Hoyle v. Dimond, 612 F.Supp.2d 225, 233 (W.D.N.Y.2009) (holding that plaintiff adequately alleged agreement between defendants to commit at least two predicate acts, where plaintif......
  • Sky Med. Supply Inc. v. SCS Support Claims Servs., Inc., No. 12–CV–6383 (JFB)(AKT).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • 7 Mayo 2014
    ...affairs, the inference of an agreement [to join the conspiracy] is unmistakable.”))); see also [17 F.Supp.3d 231] Hoyle v. Dimond, 612 F.Supp.2d 225, 233 (W.D.N.Y.2009) (holding that plaintiff adequately alleged agreement between defendants to commit at least two predicate acts, where plain......
  • Copantitla v. Fiskardo Estiatorio Inc. D/B/A Thalassa Rest., No. 09 Civ. 1608(RJH).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 27 Mayo 2011
    ...Broadcast Group, Inc., 175 A.D.2d 536, 572 N.Y.S.2d 796, 798–99 (N.Y.App.Div.1991). The one case that defendants cite, Hoyle v. Dimond, 612 F.Supp.2d 225, 231 (W.D.N.Y.2009), does not support the [788 F.Supp.2d 282] proposition that an employer can recover from its employees money that the ......
  • Kalimantano GmbH v. Motion in Time, Inc., No. 12 Civ. 6969(PAE).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 12 Abril 2013
    ...27, 474 N.E.2d 235 (1984). However, where a contract is not found, a plaintiff may obtain relief in quasi-contract. Hoyle v. Dimond, 612 F.Supp.2d 225, 231 (W.D.N.Y.2009) (“Although the existence of a valid and enforceable contract governing a particular subject matter generally precludes r......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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