Developments of Interest

New Cases of Interest - July 28, 2014

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Stenehjem v. Sareen (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 1405.  Plaintiff sued his former employer and that employer's President and Chief Executive Officer for defamation, among other things.  The former Chief Executive Officer filed a cross-complaint for civil extortion, alleging that plaintiff had asserted through his counsel a pre-litigation claim for defamation and later while representing himself had made a written threat to file a criminal complaint unless cross-complainant paid plaintiff and cross-defendant monies to settle the defamation claim.  The plaintiff filed a SLAPP motion with respect to the cross-complaint.  While the trial court granted the motion, the Court of Appeal reversed.

The court concluded that the conduct expressed in the cross-complaint constituted extortion as a matter of law and was not protected under the SLAPP statute.  Even if the allegations contained in plaintiff's letter and e-mail were true, the treat of disclosure was still extortion.  Because the communication was not protected under the SLAPP statute, the court found that it was error to grant the former employee's motion to strike the cross-complaint. 

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