A strategic lawsuit against public participation (“SLAPP”) is a case that is filed to intimidate, instill fear, or otherwise silence someone who is critical or outspoken against a policy of position that is of public importance. The intent is typically to burden the defendant with extensive legal fees and costs until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Because these types of suits result in a stifling of one’s freedom of speech they have been deemed to be illegal in thirty states, including Nevada, as well as the District of Columbia and Guam. These laws are known as anti-SLAPP laws and, in some instances, result in a penalty, in the form of fees, costs and monetary damages, being imposed against the Plaintiff known as a SLAPP-back.
NEVADA’S ANTI-SLAPP LAWS
Nevada’s Anti-SLAPP laws are codified as NRS 40.635 through 40.670 and provide for the protection of good faith communications in furtherance of the right to free speech in direct connection with an issue of public concern. The statute defines “good faith communication” as: any communication that is aimed at procuring any governmental or electoral action, result or outcome; any communication of information or a complaint to a legislator, officer or employee of the Federal Government, the state of Nevada, or a political subdivision of this state, regarding a matter reasonably of concern to the respective governmental entity; any written or oral statements made in direct connection with an issue under consideration by a legislative, executive or judicial body, or any other official proceeding authorized by law or any communication made in direct connection with an issue of public interest in a place open to the public or in a public forum; which is truthful or made without knowledge of its falsehood.
Nevada’s Anti-SLAPP law provides that a person who engages in a good faith communication if furtherance of the right to free speech in direct connection with an issue of public concern is immune from any civil action for claims based upon the communications. Under this law a defendant may file a special motion to dismiss within sixty (60) days after being served with a complaint. Upon the filing of a Special Motion to Dismiss the Court must determine whether the defendant has established that the claim is based upon a good faith communication in furtherance of the right to free speech in direct connection with and issue of public concern. If the court determines that the defendant has met his or her burden of proof, then the court must determine whether the Plaintiff has demonstrated a probability of prevailing on the claim. The Court must consider such evidence as may be material to determine whether the communication was made in furtherance of the right to free speech. The evidence considered can be written or oral by witnesses or by affidavit. The Court must make a ruling on the special motion within twenty (20 days after the motion is served on the plaintiff.
DISCOVERY IS LIMITED OR STAYED
The Court must stay discovery in the case pending a ruling by the Court on the special motion to dismiss and any subsequent appeal of the ruling by the Court. However, upon a showing by either party that information necessary to meet or oppose that party’s burden of proof is in the possession of another party or third party is not reasonably available without discovery, the court must allow limited discovery for the purpose of ascertaining said information.
DECISION BY THE COURT – FEES AND COSTS
If the Court dismisses the action pursuant to a special motion to dismiss, the dismissal operates as an adjudication on the merits of the case. If the court grants a special motion to dismiss the court shall award reasonable costs and attorney’s fees to the person against whom the action was brought. In addition to reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, the court may also award and amount of up to $10,000 to the person against whom the action was brought. In addition, the person against whom the action was brought may bring a separate suit to recover compensatory damages, punitive damages and the attorney’s fees and costs of bringing the separate action.
Nevada’s SLAPP laws are fact specific and complicated. The Wright Law Group, P.C. has more than 28 years of experience prosecuting and defending civil cases is well equipped to assist you in handling your case. If you have been served with a SLAPP lawsuit you must act quickly under Nevada’s Anti-SLAPP laws. Please call us at 702-405-0001 to schedule a consultation or email us.