Yes, You Can "SLAPP" Someone For Wrongfully Suing You.
In 2011, the Texas Legislature enacted the Texas Citizens Participation Act (the "Texas Anti-SLAPP statute") allowing judges to throw out baseless defamation claims, which have been brought to stifle the First Amendment rights of Texas residents. The Anti-SLAPP statute provides broad protection to Texas residents (including businesses) by allowing them to seek an immediate dismissal of a defamation suit, subjecting the Plaintiff to a mandatory award of attorney's fees and sanctions.
Below, are some of the highlights of the Anti-SLAPP statute:
- Within 60 days of the being served with a lawsuit, a Defendant who has been sued for speaking out about a “matter of public concern” may file an "Anti-SLAPP Motion," asking the trial court to dismiss the lawsuit.
- Once the Anti-SLAPP Motion has been filed, there is an automatic stay of discovery.
- The Court is required to conduct a hearing within 60 days after the Anti-SLAPP motion has been filed. If the court's docket is particularly busy, or if the court grants limited discovery to the parties, this deadline can change to either 90 or 120 days. At the latest, the court should determine the Anti-SLAPP motion within 180 days of the Defendant being served.
- If the Defendant wins the Anti-SLAPP Motion, the lawsuit is dismissed with prejudice, and the Defendant receives a mandatory award of attorney's fees. Also, the Plaintiff is to be sanctioned by the trial court to deter future similar lawsuits.
- If the Defendant loses the Anti-SLAPP motion, the statute provides an immediate right to an expedited appeal.
The Texas Anti-SLAPP statute is a powerful tool to use when defending claims for disparagement, slander, libel, and defamation. If you've been sued for one of these causes of action, make sure you consult with an attorney who knows how to SLAPP someone.