The TCPA Helps the Banking and Financial Services Industry
Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (“SLAPPs”) are meritless lawsuits designed to stifle the lawful exercise of First Amendment rights. Rather than seeking to right a legal wrong, SLAPPs are meant to silence and retaliate against individuals, organizations, or companies for exercising their constitutionally protected rights of free speech, rights to petition, or rights of association.
The Texas Citizens Participation Act protects victims of SLAPP suits by establishing a special motion to expeditiously dismiss these meritless lawsuits. Successful movants under the TCPA are also entitled to an award of attorney’s fees and sanctions, allowing SLAPP victims to recover the costs of defending against these lawsuits and deterring SLAPP filers from bringing meritless claims.
Since the statute’s enactment in 2011, banks throughout the State of Texas have used the TCPA to obtain dismissal of meritless litigation aimed at suppressing and retaliating against their exercise of First Amendment rights.
Following an incident at a branch of LegacyTexas Bank in which plaintiff James Harlan allegedly harassed bank employees, the bank issued a letter requesting that Harlan refrain from using LegacyTexas banking centers. Harlan responded by suing the bank for defamation and several other causes of action. Because he was unable to establish that his claims had any merit, LegacyTexas was entitled to dismissal and an award of attorney’s fees and sanctions against the plaintiff. LegacyTexas Bank v. Harlan, 2018 WL 2926397 (Tex. App.—Dallas June 7, 2018).
A plaintiff brought a defamation claim against her cousin and LegacyTexas Bank, the cousin’s employer, after the cousin sent an email to other family members from her work email account that was critical of the plaintiff and her mental health. The plaintiff sued the bank for defamation, claiming that it was vicariously liable for the cousin’s email. The bank filed an anti-SLAPP motion, which remains pending. Michelle Moore v. LegacyTexas Bank, et al.
A real estate agent sued Joshua Campbell, an individual, based on Campbell’s internet post detailing a negative experience with the plaintiff. The agent also sued Campbell’s former employer, Affiliated Bank, asserting claims of negligent hiring and vicarious liability for Campbell’s allegedly tortious conduct. Both defendants moved to dismiss under the TCPA asserting the suit was based on their exercise of the right of free speech. The trial court granted this motion, dismissed the agent’s claims, and awarded attorney’s fees. The parties entered a Rule 11 agreement that the defendants would not seek to recover the awarded attorney’s fees and the agent would not appeal the trial court’s order. The agent appealed anyway, and on appeal, the court of appeals ultimately enforced the Rule 11 agreement. Parks v. Affiliated Bank, 05-16-00784-CV, 2018 WL 2057545 (Tex. App.—Dallas May 3, 2018, pet. denied) (mem. op.).