Owners of Clark treatment facility sue detractors for libel

Posted 6/7/16

Trinity Teen Solutions owners Angie and Jerry Woodward say the three young women’s repeated criticisms — mostly made in negative online reviews — are false.

“The defendants appear to have conspired and worked together in a concerted …

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Owners of Clark treatment facility sue detractors for libel


The owners of a Clark facility for troubled teenage girls are suing three former patients over disparaging remarks they’ve made about the business.

Trinity Teen Solutions owners Angie and Jerry Woodward say the three young women’s repeated criticisms — mostly made in negative online reviews — are false.

“The defendants appear to have conspired and worked together in a concerted effort to destroy (Trinity Teen Solutions’) business and to recruit others to their misguided cause,” says a portion of the Woodwards’ complaint.

The suit was filed in March and accuses Florida residents Claire Malone Matson and Mollie Lynch and Chanel Plander of California of having developed a plan “to wrongfully cause the parents of troubled teens to look elsewhere for residential treatment facilities.”

The Woodwards say the postings include “wildly false statements and innuendos” that the women know are not true.

The three women have admitted to writing the reviews and statements that Trinity Teen Solutions is complaining about, but they deny the postings are false or defamatory or that they were part of a conspiracy.

Matson, Lynch and Plander have said in their responses to the suit that their intent was to share their experiences with potential Trinity Teen Solutions patients and their families and to reconnect with and support other former patients.

Founded in 2002, Trinity Teen Solutions is located on a 160-acre ranch off of Road 8RA and surrounded by the Shoshone National Forest. It provides faith-based treatment to girls between the ages of 13 and 18 who are “dealing with addiction, substance abuse, depression, academic failure, sexual promiscuity, and other issues related to poor mental health,” according to Trinity Teen Solutions’ website.

The business describes itself as a residential treatment program and Catholic boarding school that’s “more like a long-term youth ranch than a wilderness treatment program.” Documents included with court records suggest most patients stay for around 18 months and are charged upwards of $195 a day — making for total bills that can apparently approach or surpass six figures.

In addition to the owners, 13 full-time staffers work at Trinity Teen Solutions to help oversee as many as 14 girls. The Woodwards are currently expanding the facility to accommodate as many as 18 girls at a time. Park County commissioners unanimously signed off on the expansion plans last month. The commission granted a special use permit that allows the Woodwards to add new offices and school facilities, a larger dormitory for the patients, a chapel and a multi-purpose building that will include an exercise room, game room and lounge. The Woodwards said they were asked to expand by the Wyoming Department of Family Services because of increased demand.

Trinity Teen Solutions’ website says it has a “drastically higher long-term success rate” than other facilities.

“A full 96% of the girls who come to Trinity and complete their stay effectively overcome the struggles in their lives,” says a portion of the site.

Matson, Lynch and Plander have been telling a different story — warning parents not to send their daughters to Trinity Teen Solutions.

In postings to Yelp, Facebook, Google reviews, the Better Business Bureau and on a since-deleted website that was called “Trinity Teen Survivors,” the women have given detailed accounts alleging they suffered traumatic mistreatment at the facility. They describe punishments that included being tied to animals or being forced to sit and stare at a wall for long periods of time; they also say they were not provided good food or allowed to tell their family members how unhappy they were.

Lynch wrote in a post on the now-defunct “Survivors” site that the Woodwards were running a “work camp” where “they get paid for your kids to be shamed, belittled, and work for them.” Matson — who was at the facility between 2004 and 2005 — described herself in a Yelp review as having been a “prisoner for profit” and said in a Google review that girls tend to “love” Trinity when they leave “but in a year or two the haze of the brainwashing clears and they realize it wasn’t so great.” Plander, meanwhile, has said the living conditions were “terrible” with “horribly abusive staff” who denied them things like showers and medical attention.

While there are similarly negative online reviews from other former patients, other young women and their parents have described Trinity Teen Solutions as having been a positive and even life-saving influence.

“It is hurtful to see all these poor reviews when all we are trying to do here at Trinity is help people,” Angie Woodward wrote in one response posted on Yelp in November 2015.

To back up their contentions that former patients’ complaints are untrue, the Woodwards have noted that Lynch and Plander previously had positive things to say about their experiences at Trinity Teen Solutions.

Lynch wrote a glowing five-star review shortly after leaving the program in 2012. The then-18-year-old had called the program “a true miracle,” praised its “wonderful and extremely patient staff” and said “every moment on the soil of that Wyoming ranch was exactly what I needed to live my life the way a young woman is truly meant to live.”

“If you want to give your daughter her life, Trinity is the way to go and I can say with confidence that it is a gift you will not regret giving and that she will be happy to have received with time,” Lynch concluded.

In last month’s response to the lawsuit, Lynch said her 2012 review was not accurate and did not reflect her actual experiences at the ranch.

Plander, meanwhile, wrote a testimonial for Trinity Teen Solutions toward the end of her 2007 to 2010 tenure at the facility.

“Now I have a light in my life and more than anything, I have hope,” she wrote. “Trinity has given me the chance to live and move on with my life.”

Plander now says she wrote the testimonial while still at the facility and “under duress” and that it “did not truthfully relate her experiences.”

The Woodwards say Trinity Teen Solutions has lost business, goodwill, customers and time and energy because of the former patients’ defamatory statements. They’re asking a judge to have Matson, Lynch and Plander “restrained from posting false information,” “required to remove all false and disparaging they have made” and ordered to stop contacting employees and potential customers of Trinity Teen Solutions.

Matson, Lynch and Plander, meanwhile, have offered up numerous possible defenses, including that the statements “were and are true,” “were merely statements of opinion” or constituted “fair comment.”

The women’s attorneys have said the case will “necessarily be an extremely fact-intensive litigation (as truth is a defense to libel claims) that will involve discovery, testimony and/or affidavits from Plaintiff’s (Trinity Teen Solutions’) staff, Defendants, and former residents of Plaintiff’s facility” that could involve tens of thousands of dollars of legal fees and costs.

Matson, Lynch and Plander are being represented by a team of five lawyers — including three from a New York firm that specializes in intellectual property cases and two from Casper, court records show. Trinity Teen Solutions is being represented by attorney Joey Darrah of Powell.

Because the dispute involves citizens of different states, the civil case is proceeding in Wyoming’s federal court.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal has scheduled an initial pretrial conference for July 12 in Cheyenne.