In Hui v. Sturbaum, ___ Cal.App.4th ___ (Jan. 9, 2014), the California Court of Appeal (First Appellate District, Division Five) affirmed the ruling of the San Francisco County Superior Court (Judge Kahn) granting of an anti-SLAPP motion to a defamation claim.
Plaintiff, a Chiropractor, sued an insurance company claims investigator for defamation on the grounds that she made false statements to the California Department of Insurance and others about his practice. The defendant investigator filed an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing, among other things, that Defendant’s statements about plaintiff were absolutely privileged under California Civil Code Section 47 and, therefore, Plaintiff could not demonstrate a likelihood of success. The trial court agreed and granted the motion.
The appellate court affirmed. The “common interest privilege” found in Civil Code Section 47(c), provides that statements made without malice on subjects of mutual interests are privileged and, therefore cannot constitute defamation under the law. The common interest privilege is “recognized where the communicator and the recipient have a common interest and the communication is of a kind reasonably calculated to protect or further that interest.” In this case, the court determined that the alleged defamatory statements were made between two parties sharing a business interest, resolving an insurance claim. Moreover, Plaintiff could not show that the statements were made with malice. Therefore, Plaintiff’s defamation claim was likely to fail.