On July 22, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision affirming the Federal District Court order granting both a motion to dismiss and a motion for attorney's fees filed by attorneys Joe Garin, Megan Hummel and Amber Williams in a lawsuit brought by an insurance company against an attorney in violation of Nevada's anti-SLAPP statute.
The dispute arose from Plaintiff's decision to deny coverage to an insured who had been named as a defendant in a catastrophic personal injury lawsuit. After a state court judge entered an $18 million default judgment against the insured, Plaintiff was named in a bad faith action pursuant to a valid assignment of rights from its insured to the injured party. To avoid liability, Plaintiff filed a separate lawsuit against the attorneys involved in the personal injury action, asserting that they violated Nevada's RICO statutes and engaged in a conspiracy by negotiating a settlement and covenant not to execute after Plaintiff refused to provide a defense.
The Federal District Court granted dismissal with prejudice in favor of the attorneys pursuant to NRS 41.660, a statute which prohibits Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, or "SLAPP suits." The District court also granted a subsequent motion for attorney's fees.
On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court orders, finding that:
- The attorneys established the communications at issue were made in good faith and without knowledge of falsehood.
- That Plaintiff was not entitled to conduct discovery as "[t]he problem with Plaintiff's complaint [was] not the sufficiency of the allegations, but the very nature of the allegations – that they target protected communications in an effort to suppress those communications."
- That the district court correctly awarded attorney's fees pursuant to the penalty provisions of the anti-SLAPP statute.
Contact: Joe Garin