Thursday, May 19, 2016

Split re anti-SLAPP fees

Image result for slapp feesOk, so plaintiff sues defendant, and defendant (of course!) responds with an anti-SLAPP motion. Before the trial court rules on the motion, plaintiff dismisses its case. We all know that when a plaintiff voluntarily dismisses in that situation, the trial court retains jurisdiction to award attorneys' fees. But does the trial court have to evaluates the merits of the anti-SLAPP motion before awarding fees? Or can the court simply assume that since the anti-SLAPP motion presumably spooked the plaintiff into dismissing, the motion was good. Coltrain v. Shewalter (1998) 66 Cal.App.4th 94 says that the defendant is the prevailing party in that situation automatically. But Tourgeman v. Nelson & Kennard (2014) 222 Cal.App.4th 1447, says the trial court must still determine the prevailing party based on the merits of the anti-SLAPP motion before awarding fees. So there's a split of authority. Today, in Egley v. Sparks, an nonpub, 4/1 sides with Tourgeman.

And here's a nice thematic intro from 1/2's Justice Richman:
Disputes between neighbors can be among the most prolonged, petty, and downright nasty of all litigation. (See, e.g., Griffin v. Northridge (1944) 67 Cal.App.2d 69, 71–73.) Such disputes can become notoriously bitter, sometimes even providing the
motive for murder. (See People v. Garcia (2005) 36 Cal.4th 777, 782–783.) There was
no murder here. But it sure was petty and nasty—at least on the part of [plaintiff/appellant].