One who is sued for injuring another by things he or she has said or written can, in California, immediately file a defense motion asking the court to dismiss the suit unless the plaintiff can show without further ado that the suit is likely to win.
But this anti-SLAPP motion, which among other things has greatly reduced the number of intimidation suits filed to silence speakers and writers, is not available to just any defendant. Under the Code of Civil Procedure. when the challenged statement was made directly to the news media, the motion is appropriate only when that statement concerns a matter of public interest.
In Nygård, Inc. v. Uusi-Kertula (California Court of Appeal, 2d District, 2/1/08) the plaintiff company contended that an ex-employees statements to a Finnish entertainment tabloid, Katso, complaining of oppressive and intolerable working conditions at Nygård, and also the company founders guests at his Caribbean retreat, were not a matter of public interest since they did not involve significant public issues; they did not touch on government matters (or) private conduct that affect[s] a community in a manner similar to a government entity." But the California Court of Appeal, construing the term public interest broadly as the SLAPP statute requires, disagreed.
Taken together, (the) cases and the legislative history that discusses them suggest that "an issue of public interest" within the meaning of (Code of Civil Procedure) section 425.16, subdivision (e)(3) is any issue in which the public is interested. In other words, the issue need not be "significant" to be protected by the anti-SLAPP statute; it is enough that it is one in which the public takes an interest. Judged by this standard, the trial court correctly concluded that the statements on which the present suit is based concern an issue of public interest. According to evidence introduced by defendants in support of their motions to strike, there is "extensive interest" in (Peter) Nygård, "a prominent businessman and celebrity of Finnish extraction" among the Finnish public. Further, defendants’ evidence suggests that there is particular interest among the magazine’s readership in "information having to do with Nygårds famous Bahamas residence which has been the subject of much publicity in Finland." The June 2005 article was intended to satisfy that interest.
Having concluded that the defendants were eligible to make the anti-SLAPP motion, the court held that the challenged statements were not likely to be held actionable under any of five theories of liabilityincluding libel, since the statements were most understandable as expressions of opinion rather than assertions of objective fact. In an unpublished companion case the appellate court upheld an award of $45,000 in attorneys fees to the defendants.