The TCPA Helps Individuals Who Speak Out about Matters of Public Concern
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 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 its inception, the TCPA has repeatedly protected individuals facing lawsuits aimed at intimidating and retaliating against them after they speak out about important issues of significant public concern, either by reporting misconduct to the authorities or going to the media.
Plaintiffs sued a community advocacy group, a radio station, and its morning disc jockey, Greg “Bama Brown” Thompson, based on the DJ’s on-air reporting about Expedition’s plans to build a concrete batch plant in a quiet neighborhood, when Expedition had violated rules for notifying the public about its plans. Defendants successfully moved to dismiss under the TCPA. Expedition, LLC and Dripping Wet Concrete vs. Greg Thompson a.k.a. "Bama Brown" and Capstar TX, LLC, Cause No. 15-0370, 428th Dist. Ct., Hays County, Tex. (2016).
A former children’s camp counselor sued journalists, media organizations, and the family of an eleven-year-old victim of sexual assault after defendants reported on incidents of sexual assault that plaintiff committed while serving as a camp counselor. The family of the child successfully moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims under the TCPA. Matthew S. Bovee v. Houston Press LP, et al., No. 14-17-00008-CV, 2017 WL 1015675 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] Mar. 14, 2017, no pet.).
A home air conditioning company sued a homeowner and her husband, an active servicemember, for defamation after the homeowner spoke to the media about an unsatisfactory experience with the plaintiff that left their family without air conditioning for several days during the summer, all while the husband was deployed overseas in Iraq. The homeowner moved to dismiss pursuant to the TCPA; the day before the hearing on her motion, the plaintiff agreed to dismiss the lawsuit. Green Earth Home Comfort, LLC v. Long, Cause No. 2018-CI-01544, 131st Dist. Ct., Bexar County, Tex. (2018).
In Hammond v. Lovings, the defendant made accusations of sexual harassment against the plaintiff, Hammond, to her employer. During the ensuing investigation, other female employees came forward with similar allegations of misconduct against the plaintiff, who filed suit for defamation in response. Defendants successfully moved to dismiss under the TCPA by demonstrating that the action was in response to their protected First Amendment rights and that Plaintiff had not established a prima facie case for his claims. Hammond v. Lovings, 5:15-CV-00579-RP, 2016 WL 9049579, at *3 (W.D. Tex. May 25, 2016).
A distributor and retailer of lumber and building materials filed a report with law enforcement after a customer repeatedly threatened to go on a mass-shooting spree if his order was incorrect. That customer was charged with the misdemeanor crime of making a terroristic threat and sued the company and certain employees in response for defamation and other causes of action stemming from the police report. Defendants successfully moved to dismiss under the TCPA. Wade v. BMC Stock Holdings, Inc., No. 2018-57532, 11th Dist. Ct., Harris County, Tex. (2018).