After defendant’s dog killed plaintiff’s cat, the parties settled for $2,000 and a written agreement with a non-disparagement clause.
However, defendant then posted a hostile message on a neighborhood blog about plaintiff, who responded by suing defendant and his wife for breach of contract, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Defendant and his wife filed an anti-SLAPP motion under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s denial of defendant’s anti-SLAPP motion and held that there was no public interest in defendant’s internet post about plaintiff.
Determining the “public interest” invokes the public/private distinction, which is one of the most malleable in all the law. (See Rand Resources, LLC v. City of Carson (2019) 6 Cal.5th 610, 621 [“we have struggled with the question of what makes something an issue of public interest”] (Rand); cf. Horwitz, The History of the Public/Private Distinction (1977) 130 U. Pa. L.Rev. 1423 [tracing history of distinction from the late medieval period]; see id. at p. 1426 [“By 1940, it was a sign of legal 5 sophistication to understand the arbitrariness of the division of law into public and private realms”].)
The California Court of Appeal assayed six precedents to decide this case.
The six anchoring precedents are Rand, Rivero, Weinberg, Workman, Abuemeira, and FilmOn. (Rand Resources, LLC v. City of Carson (2019) 6 Cal.5th 610; Rivero v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL–CIO (2003) 105 Cal.App.4th 913; Weinberg v. Feisel (2003) 110 Cal.App.4th 1122; Workman v. Colichman (2019) 33 Cal.App.5th 1039; Abuemeira v. Stephens (2016) 246 Cal.App.4th 1291; FilmOn.com Inc. v. DoubleVerify Inc. (2019) 7 Cal.5th 133.)
In this case, neither party was in the public eye; none of their acts directly affected a large number of people beyond the three households; and there was no issue of public interest when the speaker’s words were merely an effort to gather ammunition for another round in the speaker’s neighborhood wrangle.
See Jeppson v Ley.
If you are faced with California’s Anti-SLAPP issues and dispicable defamation, you need a highly skilled and tenacious attorney as your advocate! Contact the Law Office of Robert Rodriguez! 209-596-4263.
Robert Rodriguez has prosecuted and defended California’s Anti-SLAPP law Section 425.16 of the Code of Civil Procedure, et seq. in the State of California courts. Robert Rodriguez has litigated well over 100 family law cases and civil litigation matters including personal injury motor vehicle cases, dog bite and slip & fall cases, breach of contract, defamation & invasion of privacy, fraud, unfair business practice, malicious prosecution, workplace and employment matters including sexual harassment, wrongful termination, wage & hour violations, discrimination pursuant to the FEHA, Gov’t Code §§ 12940 et seq., violations of the FMLA & Pregnancy Leave, Civil Rights discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in the State of California and California federal district courts.
* Disclaimer – Robert Rodriguez is licensed to practice only in the State of California & this analysis is applied only under State of California law. Robert Rodriguez is also admitted to practice in the U.S. District Courts, Central, Northern & Eastern Districts of California. Robert Rodriguez has practiced in the California Court of Appeal.