Friday, April 21, 2017

More HOA SLAPPs

Colyear v. Rolling Hills Cmty. Assn. of Rancho Palos Verdes, No. B270396 (D2d4 Feb 28, 2017)
 

Another in a long line of cases addressing anti-SLAPP motions in HOA disputes. This one deals with a tree trimming dispute.

Uphill Neighbor invokes the HOA’s dispute resolution process to address some trees on Downhill Neighbor’s property, which are apparently blocking Uphill’s views. A Different Neighbor—whose trees Uphill didn’t complaint about, but who got notice as a potentially interested neighbor—sued Uphill, the HOA, the HOA Board, and the individual HOA Board members, seeking a DJ that the relevant tree-trimming covenant didn’t apply to his property. Uphill subsequently withdrew his tree trimming request with the HOA.

Uphill filed an anti-SLAPP motion, which was granted by the trial court. On first read, I though
t that the decision here was wrong because it made the error addressed in by the Supreme Court in City of Cotati—confusing the motivation for a DJ claim with its gravamen. That still happens quite often. But on a closer read, the key here is that only Uphill brought the motion. The HOA and related folks weren’t moving parties. Against Uphill, Different only claim was to attack him for filing his HOA dispute claim. And since that claim is a form of speech, the result here is likely correct under Code of Civil Procedure § 425.16(e)(4).


That said, (e)(4) requires a connection to an issue of public interest. There’s not a lot in the way of consistent boundaries on how that concept is determined. But in HOA cases, the courts have generally found that if an issue of interest to a significant part of the HOA membership, it can count as a public issue, notwithstanding the lack of interest from non-members. As the tree issue was shown to be pretty important to the membership, it was enough to count here.


And since Uphill had long since withdrawn his trimming request—which never directly implicated Different in the first place—Different had no chance of success on the merits.


Affirmed.

No comments:

Post a Comment