Appeals Court Nixes Libel Claims Against Lawyer Who Posted Article About Lawsuit

From Daily Report:

Two weeks after reviving claims in an underlying case, the Georgia Court of Appeals has tossed a defendant’s defamation claim against an attorney for posting an article on his law firm’s website about a personal injury lawsuit he filed.

The appeals court said Georgia’s anti-SLAPP statute barred the lawsuit filed by a woman who was accused of using Snapchat’s Speed Filter to take a selfie just before she hit another car and seriously injured its driver in 2015.

The Speed Filter is a stylized speedometer superimposed on a picture of the user showing the speed they’re traveling at that time.

Attorney Michael Neff was among a group of lawyers in 2016 who sued Snapchat and the then-18-year-old driver, Christal McGee, in Spalding County on behalf of the injured driver, Wentworth Maynard, and his wife.

Neff also posted a story about the lawsuit and information about the dangers of the Speed Filter to his website and discussed the case with media outlets, including the Daily Report.

The allegations against McGee included a claim she was driving more than 100 mph at the time of the wreck.

That claim was made by Heather McCarty, a passenger in McGee’s car, who said they were traveling 113 mph. Neff’s accident reconstructionist estimated their speed at between 91 mph and 107 mph.

McGee sued Neff and his firm, The Law Offices of Michael Lawson Neff P.C., in 2017 asserting claims for defamation based on his article, which was also cited by other news outlets.

Her complaint, filed by Charlie Gower of Columbus’ Charles A. Gower P.C., disputed that McGee was using the Speed Filter at the time of the wreck, or that she was traveling at such a high rate of speed. The lawsuit also said McGee wasn’t charged with violating Georgia’s “super speeder” law and other offenses until after details of the crash and lawsuit became public.

The complaint included an affidavit from another passenger in the car saying McGee was not using her phone when the wreck happened.

Neff’s attorneys, Peter Coffman of Demetry DeCarlo and Alexandra Nelson and J. Timothy McDonald of Thompson Hine, filed a motion to dismiss under the anti-SLAPP statute.

Judge Stacey Hydrick refused to do so, and Neff appealed.

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