Washington Supreme Court Dismissed Land Developer SLAPP

In 2001 in Washington State, a number of citizen groups and individuals opposed the land developer Right-Price’s proposal to build several new houses in a historic area. In response to the opposition, Right-Price sued several associations and individuals, seeking damages for slander, commercial disparagement, tortious interference, and civil conspiracy.

In the course of the litigation, Right-Price engaged in wide-reaching discovery, demanding the groups’ records of correspondence with their members, bank statements, membership lists, minutes of meetings and correspondence to public officials, elected officials, or decision makers. The defendants refused the discovery request, claiming a First Amendment privilege, so Right-Price moved to compel production, which the trial court granted.

The citizens groups brought an appeal of the production order and the summary judgment motion they had brought. Agreeing with an ACLU amicus brief, the court of appeals reversed the motion to compel, but held it did not have jurisdiction to review the denial of the summary judgment motion.

On appeal to the Washington Supreme Court, the Court affirmed the appeals’ court reversal of the production order, and held that the court should have reached the summary judgment issue. Holding that Price-Right had failed to establish a case of defamation, the court dismissed the lawsuit and remanded for the trial court to award fees under the state’s anti-SLAPP law. 

See Right-Price Recreation, LLC v. Connells Prairie Cmty. Council, 146 Wn.2d 370 (2002).

Read more here.