Yes, of course. So many states, last count 30 states have statutes that protect certain constitutional rights, of persons, and of businesses. A SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) motion to dismiss is an early motion to dismiss a case by a person or business used, because the lawsuit is “based on” the businesses exercise of its freedom of expression, mostly free speech rights.
What Types of Companies Usually Use Anti-SLAPP?
Often newspaper and media companies are sued for defamation based on the articles they publish about people or businesses, and they can file a special motion to dismiss under Connecticut’s Anti-SLAPP statute. And other states’ anti-SLAPP statutes also. However, some statutes do have commercial speech exceptions, like California that exempts comparative advertising from its coverage, meaning it does not get the same protection as other non-commercial speech.
Any Company Can Use Anti-SLAPP, Pretty Much
But what about a non-media company? Well, that happens also. Most of the time the situation is a competitor sues a competitor. And the lawsuit seems legitimate on its face. For example, in a recent Texas case, a company sued a former employee for violating a non-compete agreement. The employer also sued the new employee’s employer, a competitor of course (this often happens in non-competition or trade secret cases). I plan to write more about the case over the holidays.
Often in these cases you find that (1) the plaintiff company had been putting up with the defendant company’s conduct for years and never sued and (2) the plaintiff company only sued after the defendant company hired its employee who had a non-compete or (3) the employee had filed a complaint with a state licensing or authorizing board and the company was just a tad bit annoyed and retaliated. Sometimes competitors just sue other businesses based on what they claim is false advertising by a competitor, and advertising is “speech” that can be protected by an anti-SLAPP statute.
So keep any eye out for this special motion to dismiss strategy. Because if your state statute applies, you could get rid of the case quickly and win your attorney’s fees in doing so.
If you’ve got a question about this, call the Law Junkies!!! We have law in our veins!