Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Reigning in Some Anti-SLAPP Madness

Ulkarim v. Westfield LLC, No. B247174 (July 14, 2014)

A commercial landlord brought and won an unlawful detainer proceeding to evict a tenant. Thereafter, tenant sued landlord for breach of contract and various and sundry torts arising from alleged breaches of the lease and wrongful eviction. Landlord filed an anti-SLAPP motion. Its theory was that the case arose from the service of the notice of termination for the UD case, which is protected activity under Code of Civil Procedure § 425.16(e). The trial court agreed but the court here reverses. 

As the court explains, “a tenant’s complaint against a landlord filed after the service of a notice of termination and the filing of a complaint for unlawful detainer does not arise from those particular activities if the gravamen of the tenant’s complaint challenges the decision to terminate the tenancy or other conduct in connection with the termination apart from the service of a notice of termination or filing of an unlawful detainer complaint.” The fact that the eviction process entails some court-related activity does not mean that a landlords decision to evict is protected petitioning under the First Amendment. The weight of the authority—exhaustively canvassed in the opinion—supports this proposition. To the extent that two cases can be read to suggest otherwise, they are wrong.


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