Anti-SLAPP is a complex and unusual area of law that holds great danger for unwary plaintiffs, and great relief for unfairly burdened defendants. The Law Office of David C. Beavans is one of San Diego's most experienced law firms in this area.

What is SLAPP?

SLAPP stands for "Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation." A SLAPP lawsuit isn't brought to seek repayment for an injury, but instead to silence and intimidate an innocent defendant. SLAPP'ers don't care if they win or lose; their interest is in bullying the defendant into backing out of a public issue.

In a typical SLAPP case, an individual criticizes another party, either in a public forum or to the government or quasi-governmental body, then the offended party sues the speaker in order to silence them. The classic case is where an environmental activist alleges that a Large Company X is violating the law. Large Company X, with their large litigation budget, sues the activist for defamation. The activist discovers that hiring a lawyer to defend himself from even a frivolous suit can cost him tens of thousands of dollars, so he is forced to choose between a large attorney bill, litigating on his own and likely facing a large judgment against him, or being silenced. The financially reasonable answer is to be silenced. Thus Large Company X wins.

To fight against SLAPP lawsuits like those by Large Company X, California enacted Code of Civil Procedure 425.16, otherwise known as "Anti-SLAPP." Anti-SLAPP gives innocent defendants quick and final relief from SLAPP lawsuits. If a defendant wins an anti-SLAPP motion, the complaint is dismissed, and the defendant is relieved of all liability once and for all.

Moreover, a SLAPP'ing plaintiff will be responsible for paying the defendant's legal fees. This means that a defendant can be represented by The Law Offices of David C. Beavans for little or no expense - the other side pays his bill. The attorney is often entitled to a 2x multiplier on his fees under Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal. 4th 1122. The defendant's attorney is also entitled to fees for his attorney fees motion. Legal fees against a SLAPP'ing plaintiff typically range from $40,000 to $60,000.

SLAPP cases are uncommon and complex, which is why it is so important to seek out an attorney with experience in this area of law. It is a rare litigator who sees even one anti-SLAPP case. The Law Offices of David C. Beavans has litigated six anti-SLAPP matters, making it one of the most experienced anti-SLAPP firms in San Diego.

How can our firm help?

The Law Offices of David C. Beavans has effected the following results in litigation:

  • On a wage-and-hour suit, opposing party (incorrectly) counter-sued for our clients filing a "frivolous lawsuit." Result: Cross-complaint dismissed completely, $13,000 in attorney fees awarded, driving the plaintiffs to the negotiating table.
  • Opposing party sued our client for defamation based on a complaint letter sent to California Board of Psychology. Result: Lawsuit dismissed. $50,000 in attorney fees requested, forcing plaintiff into bankruptcy.
  • Party sued our client for defamation and infliction of emotional distress when accused of child molestation to San Diego Family Court and the police. Result: $70,000 in attorney fees requested, resulting in 4-figure settlement and dismissal of all claims against our client.
  • Party sued for fraud on the basis of false statements made during the course of settlement negotiations in a previous lawsuit. Result: SLAPP granted. Case dismissed, and cash settlement reached prior to attorney fees award.
  • Party sued for lost rent as a result of a restraining order. Result: SLAPP awarded. Threat of attorney fees award used to drive the case to an advantageous settlement.
  • Our client was sued for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress based on a consumer complaint on the internet and to the Better Business Bureau against credit card processing company. Result: Plaintiff dropped the lawsuit and agreed to pay $20,000 in fees and costs.

The California legislature wrote the Anti-SLAPP section very broadly. There are many circumstances where an aggrieved defendant can seek relief. To succeed, the defendant has to show two things: 1) that the act the Plaintiff is suing about, arises from the defendant's rights of free speech or freedom to petition, and 2) that Plaintiff is unliekly to succedd if he brought the matter to trial.

The first prong is often the most important. A defendant has to show that the act the plaintiff is complaining of "arises" from the defendant's first amendment rights. Because the defendant is protected by the 1st Amendment, he can use anti-SLAPP to quickly free him from a frivolous lawsuit.

How do you know if you've been SLAPP'ed?

The causes of action in a SLAPP complaint are typically one or more of the following:

  • Defamation
  • Libel (written defamation)
  • Slander (oral defamation)
  • Trade Libel
  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
  • Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress
  • Interference with Contractual Relations
  • Interference with Economic Advantage
  • Fraud
  • Breach of Contract
  • Extortion

What is protected activity?

The 1st Amendment protects speech on a "matter of public concern," and it protects any speech or action directed to an official governmental (or quasi-governmental) body. Anti-SLAPP protections pop up in unexpected places. If you think you have been sued for any of the following actions (or if you are thinking of suing someone for the following actions). you need to call the Law Offices of David C. Beavans right away. Most anti-SLAPP actions have a 60-day time limit/deadline after the complaint is filed.

Here are some scenerios where the defendant may be protected by Anti-SLAPP. If you are sued because you did any of the following, you should contact The Law Offices of David C. Beavans immediately:

  • Making a statement in court.
  • Filing a lawsuit, or applying for a restraining order.
  • Making a statement in preperation for a lawsuit or court hearing.
  • Making a statement to "an investigatory body" such as the police, the FBI, Child Protective Services, Family Court Services, etc.
  • Making a negative statement about a third party to a government body, such as a licensing board, the IRS, etc.
  • Making a negative statement on a "matter of public interest" (that is, one that affects more than a small number of people).
  • Making a negative statement in a "public forum," for example by posting a comment on an internet site, or by protesting on a sidewalk.

Anti-SLAPP is a complex area of law, and it offers significant dangers to those who are not knowledgable of it. If you feel that you are the victim of a retalitory lawsuit, or it you have been served with an anti-SLAPP motion, contact The Law Offices of David C. Beavans right away for a free consultation.
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