Defined. Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP suits) are meritless lawsuits designed to punish parties who engage in protected activities, such as the right to petition or free speech. To protect the constitutional rights of defendants who are the victims of such lawsuits, the Legislature created the special motion to strike so that the action may be terminated at an early stage. (Code Civ. Proc. § 425.16.)
A party who files an anti-SLAPP motion to strike an unmeritorious lawsuit must show the lawsuit arises from its protected activities. For example, any written or oral statement made in a public forum in connection with an issue of public interest, is protected. A statement made by or on behalf of the governing body of a common interest development may constitute a public forum.
The anti-SLAPP motion does not apply to causes of action for breach of CC&Rs, declaratory relief, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence and nuisance.
Successful Anti-SLAPP Motions. Anti-SLAPP motions have been used successfully in:
- Kulick v. Leisure Village (2018). Attorney letter to membership in response to owner's newsletter is protected.
- Colyear v. Rolling Hills (2017) Complaint to the HOA about blocked views is protected speech.
- Lee v. Silviera (2016) Lawsuit against directors for their vote at a board meeting dismissed.
- Cabrera v. Alam (2011). Statements made at annual meeting are protected activity under the anti-SLAPP statute.
- Healy v. Tuscany Hills (2006) Lawsuit over a letter to the membership reporting litigation involving a member dismissed.
- Ruiz v. Harbor View (2005) Claim against the association's attorney for writing a letter admonishing the owner dismissed.
- Dowling v. Zimmerman (2001). Letter from resident's attorney to board re nuisance caused by other owner protected.
- Damon v. Ocean Hills (2000) Defamation claim by former manager dismissed because published statements were of public interest.
Unsuccessful Anti-SLAPP Motions.
- Rogo v. Gottlieb (2016). Letter to the membership by the association's attorney was sent with malice toward an owner.
- Silk v. Feldman (2012). If communications to the membership are defamatory on their face, an anti-SLAPP motion can be denied.
ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.