Developments of Interest

New Cases of Interest - December 15, 2016

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Contreras v. Dowling (2016) 4 Cal.App.5th 774.  This is a SLAPP case.  In the action a tenant sued her landlord, the landlord's son and the landlord's former attorneys for alleged tenant harassment and other causes of action which purportedly arose out of alleged illegal entries into the tenant's apartment.  She then amended those pleadings to name the landlord's new attorney as well as a defendant, alleging that he had aided and abetted these improper entries.  The defendant's attorney filed a SLAPP motion.  The Court of Appeal in reversing the trial court found that the tenant's cause of action against the attorney did arise out of protected activity, because the only actions which the attorney was alleged to have taken were all acts by an attorney representing clients in pending or threatened litigation.  Those acts consisted of advice to his client and writing a letter to opposing counsel.  Those actions were protected by CCP § 425.16.  The aiding and abetting or conspiracy allegations were insufficient to remove those actions from statutory protection.  The tenant also could not demonstrate a probability of prevailing on the merits because the attorney's communicative acts were within the scope of the litigation privilege in Civil Code § 47(b).

Industrial Waste & Debris Box Service, Inc. v. Murphy (2016) 4 Cal.App.5th 1135.  Also a SLAPP case.  A waste hauling company brought a tort action alleging that statements in a consultant's report regarding estimated rates of diversion from landfills were false.  These statements were deemed to be matters of public interest for the purpose of the SLAPP statute because limited landfill capacity and environmental effects were issues of significant public interest.  Although the report was prepared for a competitor, it was not a commercial statement in that the consultant himself was not a competitor.  The waste hauling company however was unable to prove a probability of prevailing on its claims.
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