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Sunday, March 31, 2002

Look Before You SLAPP In another SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) case in California this week, the anti-SLAPP statute was applied to give litigants and lawyers protection against malicious prosecution claims. In Jarrow Formulas, Inc. v. LaMarche (B146708, 3/25/02), Sandra LaMarche, a graphic artist, had a dispute with her client, a vitamin manufacturer, over the ownership of artwork created by LaMarche for the company. According to declarations filed in the case, the owner of Jarrow behaved outrageously, attempting to sabotage LaMarche's relationships with other clients and hurling profanities like rice at a spring wedding. Jarrow sued LaMarche about the artwork ownership issue, and LaMarche ultimately won. During the case, however, LaMarche and her attorney filed a cross-complaint against Jarrow for interfering in her other business relationships, which she lost. Jarrow then sued LaMarche and her attorney for malicious prosecution, arising from the unsuccessful cross-complaint. The Court of Appeal found the malicious prosecution case was barred by California's anti-SLAPP statute, and reversed the trial court on this point. All actions in filing and advocating the cross-complaint were found to be protected exercises of First Amendment rights, and the malicious prosecution claim was found to be a prohibited attempt to chill those rights. LaMarche's cross-complaint was an exercise of her right to petition, and her lawyer's written and oral advocacy were protected speech. The malicious prosecution claim thus was stricken, and LaMarche and her attorney awarded their costs and attorneys' fees.

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