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Defamation Claims in SLAPPs


Broadly defined, defamation is an intentional false communication, which is either published in a written form (libel) or publicly spoken (slander), that injures one’s reputation.

Sound familiar?

Defamation is one of the most common causes of action in SLAPPs. Although not all claims of defamation are subject to the anti-SLAPP law, if you’ve been sued for defamation, you may well have been SLAPPed.

The two cases below are examples of SLAPPs where CASP successfully defended clients who were sued for defamation.

In each case, the special motion to strike the complaint under the anti-SLAPP law (C.C.P. section 425.16) was granted by the trial court, the ruling was then challenged in the Court of Appeal, and later affirmed by the California Supreme Court.

Barrett v. Rosenthal
California Supreme Court, 2006 (review of Alameda Co. Superior Court)
40 Cal.4th 33, 146 P.3d 510

Three plaintiffs, vocal critics of alternative medicine, sued our client, breast-implant awareness activist Ilena Rosenthal, for defamation and related claims, based on critical comments she made about two of them on the Internet. The trial court granted her anti-SLAPP motion. The Court of Appeal affirmed this ruling as to two plaintiffs, but reversed as to the third. The California Supreme Court held that the third plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed as well, ruling that Rosenthal was protected from civil liability for republication of the words of another on the Internet by section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act. On remand, the trial court awarded more than $434,000 for attorneys fees.

Briggs v. ECHO
California Supreme Court, 1999 (review of Alameda Co. Superior Court)
19 Cal.4th 1106, 81 Cal.Rptr.2d 471

The Briggses, landlords, sued our client, a nonprofit organization that provides counseling, mediation, and referral services related to landlord-tenant disputes, alleging that the organization harassed and defamed them. The trial court granted defendant’s anti-SLAPP motion. The appellate court reversed in a 2-1 decision, finding no “issue of public significance” in the defendant’s conduct. In its first case involving the California anti-SLAPP law, the California Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeal, holding that the anti-SLAPP statute is to be construed broadly and covers any lawsuit arising from the exercise of the right to petition the government, regardless of the issue involved. In total, the trial court awarded more than $425,000 for attorneys fees and costs.

The information on this website is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. The information here is meant to provide general information to the public.

Site last updated April 4, 2018 @ 12:53 pm; This content last updated February 28, 2016 @ 1:21 pm