Developments of Interest

New Cases of Interest - August 8, 2016

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There are two more SLAPP cases in the latest set of decisions released by the Court of Appeal.

Brodeur v. Atlas Entertainment, Inc. (2016) 248 Cal.App.4th 665.  In this case a complaint had alleged defamation and false light claims arising from alleged health hazards associated with microwave ovens which appeared in a movie character's reference to a magazine article with the character describing the article as stating that the microwave oven took all of the nutrition out of the food.  The trial court denied the SLAPP motion but the Court of Appeal reversed, finding that the statement was made in connection with a public issue or an issue of public interest, and was protected activity.  Plaintiff however failed to show a probability of prevailing because no declaration or other admissible evidence had been submitted which was reasonably susceptible of a defamatory meaning given that the movie was a farce and nothing in the character's words would have been understood as factual.

Reed v. Gallagher (2016) 248 Cal.App.4th 841.  In this case a defamation complaint was filed concerning allegedly defamatory statements made during a political campaign.  A SLAPP motion was granted by the trial court and affirmed by the Court of Appeal.  The Court noted that characterizing a political candidate as unscrupulous is not defamatory because it is a subjective opinion rather than a provable false statement of fact.  Calling the candidate a "crook" could not reasonably be understood in the literal sense or to mean that the candidate had committed a crime.  The plaintiff failed to establish a probability of prevailing because he could not meet his burden of proof as a public figure to establish actual malice by clear and convincing evidence.  

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