A Manhattan Beach defamation attorney has to be ready for anything during a defamation of character lawsuit. Many times a defendant will try and use any legal maneuver their lawyer can think of to try and get a lawsuit dismissed.
In a recent a defamation case handled by Scott Dinsmore, of Dinsmore & Sandelmann LLP, a defendant attempted to have a defamation lawsuit dismissed on grounds that it violated the state’s anti-SLAPP laws. The trial court and Court of Appeal rejected this defense.
Social Media Name Calling
Plaintiff Olivia Vaatete, a Brentwood-based bridal consultant and designer, was in a long-term romantic relationship with martial arts instructor Taejoon Lee, which ended before he began dating actress and “diamond heiress” Zeta Graff. Graff became engaged to marry Lee, despite her suspicions that he was still maintaining a relationship with Vaatete. Graff broke off the engagement when she became convinced that Lee was cheating on her with Vaatete.
In her anger, Graff took to Yelp!, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, posting vulgar messages in an attempt to destroy Vaatete’s reputation, including accusing Vaatete of being a whore and a drug dealer.
Understandably, Vaatete was not pleased by Graff’s actions and filed a lawsuit for defamation of character. In a counter move, Graff tried to persuade the court that the lawsuit against her should be dismissed as a Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation, or SLAPP, lawsuit.
Was Ms. Graff Getting SLAPPed?
The California State Legislator describes SLAPP lawsuits as “lawsuits brought primarily to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition for the redress of grievances.”
The primary purpose of a plaintiff filing a SLAPP lawsuit is not to win their case but to intimidate the defendant into abandoning their opposition through a long, drawn out legal process and the prospect of continuing legal costs. SLAPP lawsuits are prohibited in California (under Code of Civil Procedure §425.16) and in other states on the grounds that they impede freedom of speech.
Basically, Ms. Graff was trying to get the defamation suit dismissed on the grounds that it infringed on her right to free speech. Was Ms. Graff’s strategy a success? Not exactly.
The Judge Didn’t Think So
In order to win her anti-SLAPP motion, Ms. Graff had to show the court that Ms. Vaatete’s lawsuit is based on claims related to her constitutionally protected First Amendment rights and that the claim lacks any genuine legal substance or prospect of success.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Holly E. Kendig, who presided over the hearing, rejected her motion. Ms. Graff and her lawyer chose to appeal the judge’s decision.
The Appellate Judge Didn’t Think So Either
They met with the same lack of success before the Court of Appeal. Judge Kim Dunning, who presided over the appeals hearing, affirmed the earlier court decision, writing:
“Graff’s alleged statements were not made in the context of a public interest issue. They were personal attacks on Vaatete, impugning her character and accusing her of criminal behavior. As the trial court aptly observed, ‘the laws of defamation … would be undermined if accusations of cheating were always protected speech simply because the public might have a broader interest in the issue of cheating and adultery.’”
You Have a Right to Protect Yourself, Your Family and Your Business from Harmful Lies and Gossip
If someone is trying to destroy your reputation or business through false statements, you need to fight back immediately.
The Manhattan Beach defamation attorneys at Dinsmore & Sandelmann are more than ready for the challenge. Our many years of experience protecting the rights and reputations of clients in Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, El Segundo, Hawthorne, Redondo Beach and other Los Angeles communities gives us the skills and expertise to successfully pursue slander, libel and other types of defamation litigation.
If you believe you have been the victim of defamation, call the law offices of Dinsmore & Sandelmann to schedule a free consultation with one of our Manhattan Beach defamation of character lawyers to discuss your case and help you get the justice you deserve.