McCarthy v. Fuller, No. 15-1839 (7th Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
In 1956, Ephrem, a Catholic nun, experienced apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Devotions to Our Lady of America was launched. Ephrem joined a cloistered house, approved by the Pope. Fuller entered the cloister in 1965. In 1979 its three members (including Fuller and Ephrem) formed a new congregation. In 1993 Ephrem founded Our Lady of America Center. Upon her death in 2000, she was succeeded by Fuller and willed her property to Fuller. Most had been created by Ephrem or donated to the cloister or the Center. Fuller registered trademarks for artifacts, including Ephrem’s diary, medallions, and statues. In 2005 McCarthy, a lawyer, and Langsenkamp, “a Papal Knight,” began helping Fuller promote devotions to Our Lady. Fuller gave them a statue and other artifacts. In 2007, the three had a disagreement that resulted in this lawsuit. The men claim to be the authentic promoters of devotions to Our Lady and the lawful owners of the artifacts. Another layman, Hartman, began a campaign to smear McCarthy’s and Langsenkamp’s reputations. Fuller is no longer a nun. A jury returned a verdict in favor of McCarthy and Langsenkamp. The Seventh Circuit affirmed awards: $150,000 in compensatory damages, $200,000 in punitive damages (against Hartman only), plus $295,000 in attorney’s fees and sanctions and $281,000 in costs, to be paid by Fuller, Hartman, and their lawyer. The court vacated an injunction concerning the defamation.