Developments of Interest

New Cases of Interest - November 14, 2011

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Panakosts Partners, LP v. Hammer Lane Management, LLC (2011) 199 Cal.App.4th 612.  The SLAPP statute continues to generate a lot of appellate litigation.  In this case a petition for buyout was filed by owners of a minority share in a limited partnership and the majority owners filed a SLAPP motion in response.  Those same majority owners had initially filed an action seeking judicial dissolution of the partnership and the minority partners had responded with their petition for buyout.  The majority owners then dismissed with prejudice the cause of action for judicial dissolution and filed their SLAPP motion.  The Trial Court granted the SLAPP motion and awarded attorney’s fees and costs.  The Court of Appeal affirmed the order denying the petition for buyout, but reversed the grant of the SLAPP motion and attorney’s fees and costs.  The petition for the buyout was properly denied because the court no longer had jurisdiction to grant that request once the cause of action for judicial dissolution had been dismissed.  However, the request for the buyout did not arise from a protected activity as defined in the SLAPP statute, and thus the SLAPP motion and the award of fees and costs needed to be reversed.

Chitsazzadeh v. Kramer & Kaslow (2011) 199 Cal.App.4th 676.  In this case a SLAPP motion was found to be untimely and the Trial Court awarded attorney’s fees to the plaintiffs as the prevailing parties.  The Court of Appeal affirmed the order denying the SLAPP motion as being untimely but denied the attorney’s fees request.  Because the SLAPP motion contemplates the court discretion to consider a motion filed after the 60 day time frame, the trial court had discretion on that basis to simply deny the motion without considering the merits of the motion.  There was nothing in the record to indicate that the motion as filed was frivolous or intended solely to cause unnecessary delay, and a SLAPP motion is not frivolous or solely intended to cause unnecessary delays simply because it is not filed within the 60 day time frame.

Lefebvre v. Lefebvre (2011) 199 Cal.App.4th 696.  In this SLAPP case the Trial Court denied a SLAPP motion which sought to strike a complaint that alleged malicious prosecution and similar causes of action.  The complaint arose from the filing of criminal reports that led to Plaintiff’s arrest and prosecution for making a criminal threat, which resulted in an acquittal and a finding of factual innocence.  The Court of Appeal found that the act of making a false police report is not an act in furtherance of Constitutional Rights or free speech and therefore the SLAPP statute doesn’t apply, nor was it otherwise protected activity within the meaning of the SLAPP statute.  The Trial Court therefore properly denied the SLAPP motion.

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