California appellate court affirms dismissal of defamation suit against stock blogger

GTX Global Corp. v. Left, No. B192626, 2007 WL 1300065 (Cal.App. 2 Dist. May 4, 2007)

Andrew Left publishes the blog stocklemon.com, and in 2005, he made a couple of posts critical about plaintiff GTX. In turn, GTX sued Left for invasion of privacy and defamation. At the trial court level, Left moved to strike the complaint under California’s Anti-SLAPP statute [Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16], and the court threw out the case. GTX sought review with the California Court of Appeal, which affirmed the trial court’s dismissal.

When a defendant files an Anti-SLAPP motion in California, the court first considers whether the plaintiff’s cause of action arises from any act of the defendant’s taken in furtherance of that defendant’s right of petition or free speech. If the court finds the defendant has made the threshold showing, it then determines whether the plaintiff has demonstrated a probability of prevailing on its claim.

In this case, there were a number of statements made on the Stocklemon blog which GTX claimed were false and defamatory, including allegations that the company was headed by a convicted felon, and engages in stock fraud.

The court held that these statements arose from an act taken in furtherance of Left’s right of free speech, and that GTX had failed to establish a probability of prevailing on its claims. It held that for purposes of the Anti-SLAPP statute, the website was to be considered a public forum. But the public forum status of the place where the statements were made was not determinative — the court also held that the statements were connected with an issue of public interest.

In determining that GTX had failed to demonstrate a likelihood of prevailing on its claim, the court found that GTX had “adduced no evidentiary support for any of its causes of action.” The plaintiff did not “identify a single piece of evidence to support its allegations that defendant’s challenged statements were false or otherwise defamatory.”

Accordingly, the court affirmed the dismissal of the action against Left, and awarded Left the attorney’s fees he had incurred, both at the trial court level and on appeal.