How much can you recover in attorney's fees defending a meritless lawsuit brought under Connecticut's anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute? All, if your motion to dismiss is granted, according to a recent Connecticut Superior Court decision.
Connecticut's anti-SLAPP statute (C.G.S. § 52-196a) is designed to protect parties from meritless lawsuits which attempt to bar their exercise of constitutionally protected rights such as free speech, free association, and the right to petition the government on matters of public concern.
The anti-SLAPP statute permits a defendant to file a special motion to dismiss if the complaint is premised on “the opposing party's exercise of its right of free speech, right to petition the government, or right of association,” which are protected by the U.S. and Connecticut constitutions. The court will generally grant the motion to dismiss unless the Plaintiff has pled their complaint “with particularity” and demonstrates the merits of their
In a recent Superior Court decision—Thomas Cronin v. Paul Pelletier—the Court found that misuse of the statute could have a hefty course. The Court ruled in favor of the defendant on a motion to dismiss and also found that attorney's fees for all work prosecuting a case could be subject to recovery under the anti-SLAPP statute's provision for the award of “reasonable attorney's fees,” not just the fees associated with the costs of preparing a motion to dismiss.
This case, among the first to test the statute in Connecticut, found that the scope of the work was covered by the text of the statute itself, which indicated that an award of attorney's fees doesn't limit recovery to solely the motion to dismiss.
The Connecticut Supreme Court has only tested the limits of an anti-SLAPP action once, in Lafferty v. Jones, 2020 WL 4248476. In Jones, a case concerning a 2019 series of comments on a radio show by conservative host Alex Jones about the Sandy Hook shooting. Jones held that a trial court could bar a defendant's right to file an anti-SLAPP statute if they demonstrated non-compliance with other court orders or other aspects of the discovery process.
In this case, the defendant recovered nearly $14,000. In defending against a meritless anti-SLAPP lawsuit, you could potentially recover significant litigation costs incurred in both dismissing the action and in representation of the matter.
If you are defending yourself against anti-SLAPP litigation in Connecticut, consider consulting with the experienced attorneys at Rose Kallor, LLP to support your case by calling 860.361.7999.