Thursday, November 15, 2018

Defamation Defense SLAPPED Down

An attorney's web page summary of a dental malpractice case in which she represented the plaintiff led to a defamation action by a defendant that was not dismissed on anti-SLAPP grounds, according to a decision of the Nevada Supreme Court

At some point between when the jury's verdict was entered and when this court directed the district court to reinstate the jury's verdict, Patin posted on her law firm's website the following statement:

DENTAL MALPRACTICE/WRONGFUL DEATH - PLAINTIFF'S VERDICT $3.4M, 2014 Description: Singletary v. Ton Vinh Lee, DDS, etal.

A dental malpractice-based wrongful death action that arose out of the death of Decedent Reginald Singletary following the extraction of the No. 32 wisdom tooth by Defendants on or about April 16, 2011. Plaintiff sued the dental office, Summerlin Smiles, the owner, Ton Vinh Lee, DDS, and the treating dentists, Florida Traivai, DMD and Jai Park, DDS, on behalf of the Estate, herself and minor son.

In fact

the jury determined that Summerlin Smiles and Dr. Traivai had been negligent but that Dr. Lee had not been negligent.

The issue 

resolution of this appeal implicates a single issue of statutory interpretation: whether Patin's statement regarding the jury verdict in the dental malpractice case is a "statement  made in direct connection with an issue under consideration by a. . judicial body" under NRS 41.637(3). Because no Nevada precedent is instructive on this issue, we look to California precedent for guidance...

We are persuaded by the Neville court's analysis and conclude that in order for a statement to be protected under NRS 41.637(3), which requires a statement to be "in direct connection with an issue under consideration by a. . . judicial body" (emphasis added), the statement must (1) relate to the substantive issues in the litigation and (2) be directed to persons having some interest in the litigation. If we were to accept Patin's argument that simply referencing a jury verdict in a court case is sufficient to be in direct connection with an issue under consideration by a judicial body, we would essentially be providing anti-SLAPP protection to "any act having any connection, however remote, with [a judicial] proceeding." Paul, 117 Cal. Rptr. 2d at 92. Doing so would not further the anti-SLAPP statute's purpose of "protect [ing1 the right of litigants to the utmost freedom of access to the courts without the fear of being harassed subsequently by derivative tort actions." 3 Neville, 73 Cal. Rptr. 3d at 389 (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted).

Having adopted the Neville court's standard for what qualifies for protection under NRS 41.637(3), it is clear that Patin's statement fails to meet that standard.

The case is Patin v. Lee. (Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2018/11/an-attorneys-web-page-summary-of-a-dental-malpractice-case-in-which-she-represented-the-plaintiff-led-to-a-defamation-action.html

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