Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Anti Slapp Motions More and More Common Due to Internet Postings

The internet is leading to an explosion of expression and user generated content. This is nothing new. Review sites like Ripoff Report, Yelp, RateMD etc. have fueled this explosion.

The legal downside of this explosion is that unfettered expression frequently goes too far and leads to defamation and trade libel. The fact that many review sites allow for anonymous postings and ratings only encourages individuals to cross the line from freedom of expression into the unprotected territory of defamation. Free speech has its limits and those lines are crossed online more often than anywhere else.

Defamation and trade libel, in short, consist of a false statement of fact that injures one's reputation and has a defamatory meaning. There has been an explosion in internet defamation lawsuits in the past few years. In today's world, a reputation which has taken years to build may be destroyed by just a few defamatory internet posts appearing highly in Google search rankings.

For those sued for defamation or trade libel in California, there is a powerful defensive tool that may be employed called the Anti-SLAPP motion. This motion may be filed by a defendant in a defamation case at the start of the case. The motion seeks to dismiss the complaint thereby putting an end to the lawsuit. The defendant, in the motion, must show that the speech at issue related to a matter of public interest. If the matter is of public interest or, more specifically, consists of public participation in a matter of public interest, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to prove a likelihood of success on the claims.

Basically, the Anti-SLAPP motion is like a mini-trial at the beginning of the case. Rather than incur the expense of defending a long, drawn out lawsuit, the Anti-SLAPP motion provides a defendant with an avenue to resolve the case at its beginning, saving the defendant untold thousands of dollars. Also, if successful, the defendant is entitled to recover all of its attorneys fees incurred.

If you are sued for defamation or planning on suing someone for defamation, make sure to contact a lawyer specializing in Anti-SLAPP motions. If you are a defendant, it may resolve your case very early in the proceedings and enable you to recover attorneys fees. If you are a plaintiff, you need to be able to overcome an Anti-SLAPP motion so that your case may proceed to trial.

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