Please E-mail suggested additions, comments and/or corrections to Kent@MoreLaw.Com.
Case Number: 21STCV11613
Judge: Robert S. Draper
Court: Superior Court, Los Angeles County, Caliornia
Description: Los Angeles, California civil litigation lawyers represented Plaintiff who sued Defendant alleging intentional interference with prospective economic relations, intentional interference with contractual relations, unfair business practices in violation of Business and Professional Code section 17200, and defamation per se.
As alleged in his complaint, plaintiff was a talent manager who was involved in the music industry. Plaintiff and defendant "bec[a]me boyfriend and girlfriend" in July 2016 and moved in together shortly thereafter. Plaintiff and defendant also started a management firm together in 2017.
Plaintiff eventually learned that defendant had a pattern of engaging in vindictive, destructive, and dishonest behavior toward individuals who "crossed" her in the music business. He therefore ended his romantic relationship with defendant around March 2019 and moved out of their shared apartment.
In October 2019, defendant secretly accessed plaintiff's text messages and discovered that plaintiff had engaged in a romantic encounter with another woman in August 2019. Defendant became furious and "made it her personal mission to destroy [p]laintiff['s] . . . music industry career" by telling several colleagues in the music industry "what a terrible person [plaintiff] was and to tarnish his personal and professional reputation." In October 2019, defendant dissolved the management firm she began with plaintiff and the two parties became business competitors.
In August 2020, plaintiff was hired to represent an artist known as "Tripp St." for a five-year term. As part of his duties, plaintiff contacted Mary Allen, a talent agent, in order to set up a partnership between Tripp St. and Allen's agency.
In January 2021, defendant, having learned of the business relationship between Allen and plaintiff, contacted Allen and "falsely told . . . Allen that, among other things, [plaintiff] had violated a restraining order, something which would be alarming for others to hear and would be a criminal offense if true. In fact, [plaintiff] ha[d] never had a restraining order issued against him, whether it related to [defendant] or anyone else, let alone violated a restraining order."
Defendant's statement caused Allen to terminate any association between her agency and plaintiff and to insist that any artist who continued to work with plaintiff would not work with her agency. Allen advised Tripp St. that if he wanted to continue to have Allen's agency book events for the artist, he had to cut ties with plaintiff. Tripp St. subsequently informed plaintiff that he was terminating the management agreement with plaintiff.
Plaintiff spoke with Allen, who refused to divulge the specifics of what defendant had told her, but indicated that defendant's allegations about plaintiff's character and fitness to practice in his profession were very serious.
Plaintiff then spoke with Tripp St. about the artist's reasons for terminating plaintiff as a manager. Tripp St. stated that he had acted on the advice of Allen, who had shared with him defendant's allegation that plaintiff had violated a restraining order.
In his first cause of action, plaintiff alleged that defendant interfered with prospective economic relations by "reach[ing] out to [Allen] and ma[king] a series of false claims about [plaintiff's] character and fitness to practice in his trade or profession and falsely accused [plaintiff] of committing criminal conduct." Plaintiff further alleged, "on information and belief that [defendant], for example, falsely told . . . Allen that, among other things, [p]laintiff . . . had violated a restraining order ...." Plaintiff further alleged that defendant's false claims to Allen about plaintiff's character and fitness as well as her false statement that plaintiff had violated a restraining order supported plaintiff's additional causes of action.
Outcome: On July 23, 2021, the trial court conducted a hearing and denied defendant's anti-SLAPP motion. The court concluded that the allegation in the complaint that defendant falsely told Allen that plaintiff had violated a restraining order was not an act in furtherance of the right of petition or free speech, and thus defendant had failed to establish the challenged claims arose from activity protected by the anti-SLAPP statute. Based on the court's conclusion that defendant had failed to establish that plaintiff's complaint arose from protected activity, the court did not consider whether plaintiff had a probability of prevailing on the merits of his action. Defendant timely appealed.
The order denying defendant's special motion to strike is reversed and remanded for the trial court to conduct a second step anti-SLAPP analysis. Defendant is entitled to recover costs on appeal.