Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mom & Daughter Give Ex a Good SLAPP in Online Libel Suit

Defamation of character
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In Chaker v. Mateo, Cal. App. 4th (Case No. D058753 (2012)), the court granted defendants' anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) motion to defeat an online defamation claim. But the underlying principle of the case decided earlier this month and reported by is that Hell hath no fury like an ex-girlfriend and her mother scorned.

A brief dalliance by Darren Chaker and Nicole Mateo produced a child, bitter paternity and custody battles, and two women determined to employ an Internet Web site to share their impressions of the plaintiff.

Negative comments about Chaker's character and his forensics business appeared on a Web site that invited consumers to evaluate the honesty and reliability of service providers and businesses.

When Chaker found comments on the site branding him a criminal, drug-using deadbeat dad whose business engaged in fraudulent conduct, he surmised that Nicole's mom, Wendy, didn't think too highly of him. He also alleged in his defamation suit that Nicole weighed in with negative comments as well. Wendy responded to the suit with an anti-SLAPP motion pursuant to Calif. Code Civ. Proc. sec. 425.16.

The anti-SLAPP analysis requires a court to find that a defendant's actions were in furtherance of her constitutional right of free speech regarding a matter of public concern and that the plaintiff has a likelihood of prevailing on his claim.  In this case, the judge concluded that the offending statements were made in a public forum about a matter of public interest and that Chaker couldn't sustain his burden of proving defamation.

Apparently, in this Internet age, a bouquet of flowers and saying "it's not you, it's me" to a jilted significant other just doesn't cut it.
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