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California's appeals court affirmed a lower court ruling that denied an actresses' special motion to strike a "soft-core porn" production company's counter-suit against her.
A secondary issue in the suit was whether or not attorneys' fees could be recovered under California's anti-SLAPP statute because the "speech" involved took the form of court filings.
Facts of Femme Fatales
For those of you who may have seen Femme Fatales, you probably heard the rumors that the production company responsible for the show was embroiled in a lawsuit with one of its actresses. That suit is the subject at hand.
Anne Greene was hired to play one of the girls to star in one of the shows many raunchy soft-core scenes. She sued the production company, True Crime LLC, bringing claims that she was sexually harassed and placed in a dangerous working environment. According to Greene, True Crime switched scenes and "blindsided" her with the sex scenes; and she would've never agreed to participate in "soft-core porn."
True Crime defended by saying that it made it perfectly clear to her the nature of the show and that she could not be heard to claim ignorance of the show's nature as the show's first season had already aired by that time. Greene refused to perform several scenes and True Crime accommodated her concerns. In her complaint, she alleged, inter alia, she was compelled to perform a simulated sex-scene with a male actor who was bleeding at the mouth -- one of the many scenes she would have also refused had she not been allegedly threatened with a $100,000 suit if she didn't comply.
Greene Sues and Pulls the Anti-SLAPP
She sued on her own in 2012. True Crime then countersued. This prompted her motion to strike that suit under claims that the suit was brought in retaliation to a legitimate public issue. In California, the codified law protects against malicious suits that chill speech of particular public interest -- so called SLAPP laws. Green's motion effectively alleged that True Crime maliciously sought to shut her up. For her part, she claimed that portions of her complaint satisfied the public issue element of the relevant anti-SLAPP defense.
The trial court rejected her motion to strike the counter-suit. This was affirmed by California's Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal reasoned in the following way. It was true that True Crime cited a portion of Greene's complaint, but the bulk of the complaint against her had little to do with chilling her complaint, and more to do with her own breach of the contract she shared with True Crime. In fact, the facts that gave rise to the company's cause of action had their nexus before Greene's allegations. Thus, California's anti-SLAPP statute was inapposite because that defense can only be effective against malicious suits set into motion to quiet protected activity. Thus, Greene will have to face breach of contract claims in court.
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