Associate Taylor Turville recently secured a dismissal for her clients in a lawsuit pending in Yolo County for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violations of Civil Rights. In the case, plaintiff alleged that Ms. Turville’s clients reported violations of city abatement laws on Plaintiff’s property and in doing so, violated the Plaintiff’s civil rights. Plaintiff alleged the reporting defamed him and caused intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff’s Complaint sought compensatory damages totaling $4.3 million.
Ms. Turville filed a special motion to strike to Plaintiff’s Complaint, otherwise known as an anti-SLAPP motion, arguing that her clients’ conduct of reporting Plaintiff’s many city abatement and code violations were protected activities and a matter of public interest as defined in the California anti-SLAPP statue. Plaintiff attempted to introduce new evidence in his opposition brief that he felt bolstered his claim and attempted to argue that Plaintiff’s activity was not protected or a matter of public interest. In Ms. Turville’s reply, she objected to all the exhibits Plaintiff introduced in his opposition on the grounds of admissibility and hearsay as well as reiterated that her clients’ activity was indeed protected activity and a matter of public interest.
At oral argument, Plaintiff argued that his evidence should be admitted, and that the anti-SLAPP statute did not apply to his causes of action as they were a mix of federal and state causes of action. Ms. Turville argued her objections were proper and, under case law, federal civil rights claims that are brought in California state courts are subject to anti-SLAPP motions.
Ms. Turville’s objections to the Plaintiff’s evidence produced in his opposition were sustained. Further, her special motion to strike was granted as the judge ruled that the defense had shown Plaintiff’s complaint arose out of protected activity and Plaintiff failed to show a probability of prevailing on the merits. The court also ruled plaintiff’s federal causes of action were also subject to the special motion to strike. As a result, the plaintiff’s Complaint was dismissed.
Based on the successful ruling, the defendants’ attorney’s fees and costs in the amount of $3,207.50 were also awarded. Congratulations to Taylor and her clients.
This Stanislaus Superior Court matter arose following a motor vehicle collision that resulted in the death of both drivers, and significant injuries to a passenger. In this case, James represented the brother and sister-in-law of the deceased defendant who was killed in the accident. During the collision, a husband and wife were driving home when the deceased defendant, coming from the opposite direction of travel, crossed over the center divide resulting in a head on collision. In the subsequent wrongful death action the plaintiffs’ contended that the deceased defendant intentionally crossed the center divide based upon communications obtained via her cell phone. Plaintiffs further alleged that a special relationship existed between the deceased defendant and James’ clients – her family – that imposed a legal duty that required them to prevent the deceased defendant from driving or causing harm.
After completing significant discovery, James Schaefers filed a motion for summary judgment on behalf of his clients. In the motion James asserted a special relationship did not exist between the family and the decedent defendant sufficient to support that the family had a legal duty. After opposition and oral arguments by the parties, the Court agreed that the plaintiffs could not establish that there was a special relationship, imposing a duty of the family of the deceased defense to stop her from causing any harm.
As a result of the motion, James’ clients were dismissed from the case and were able to recover their costs of defense to date. This saved his clients from significant exposure, while also personally vindicating their conduct.