David H. Rich was quoted in a news article that analyzes two recent U.S. District Court rulings that further define the bounds of the anti-SLAPP law in Massachusetts.
The decisions, according to the June 6, 2016 Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly article, indicate that the applicability of the law entails a nuanced, fact-specific assessment.
The law is designed to protect constitutional free speech and petitioning activities from frivolous lawsuits.
Mr. Rich, who has successfully handled anti-SLAPP matters related to defamation cases, told Lawyers Weekly that the rulings indicate that judges look at the intent of petitioning activities, including whether an activity is more commercial in nature, even though the Massachusetts statute does not include that factor.
"It's confounding to practitioners who are looking for bright lines about what is permitted and not permitted," he said in the article.
Even just a "little sliver" of commercial activity related to what might otherwise be considered petitioning activity may be enough to defeat a motion to dismiss a case based on the anti-SLAPP law, Mr. Rich said.
Mr. Rich previously obtained a defamation award for an Ohio debt collection agency against a Massachusetts attorney who made defamatory statements about the agency on a website the attorney had established. The website primarily included materials submitted to courts and administrative bodies, but also included information on contacting the attorney for legal representation.Mr. Rich and Howard M. Cooper persuaded the Supreme Judicial Court to deny the attorney's motion to dismiss the defamation case under the anti-SLAPP law. Cadle Co. v. Schlichtmann (2006). The SJC determined that the website was established for a commercial purpose, namely, to attract clients to the attorney's practice.
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