In latest edition of The Wright Toolbox:
- Don’t Get “SLAPPed”- read now
Don’t Get “SLAPPed”
In today’s highly charged environment, and with the proliferation of social media, it is almost impossible to go even a few hours without hearing someone vigorously exercising their right to free speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution or certain Articles of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. In the construction context, maybe your development project has a pesky neighboring property owner that is objecting to the development. Maybe a “concerned citizen” is objecting to how you are operating your construction site. Perhaps these complaints are being voiced to inspectors, zoning boards, etc. In some situations, a party offended or perceiving itself to be aggrieved by such communications may decide to respond by filing a lawsuit in court. However, some communications are protected by Maryland’s Anti-SLAPP law.
A “SLAPP suit” is defined as a “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” A lawsuit is a SLAPP suit if: (1) it is brought in bad faith against a party who has communicated with a federal, State, or local government body or the public at large to report on, comment on, rule on, challenge, oppose, or in any other way exercise rights under the Constitution or Maryland Declaration of Rights regarding any matter within the authority of a government body or any issue of public concern; (2) it is materially related to the communication; and (3) it is intended to inhibit or inhibits the exercise of rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution or Articles 10, 13 or 40 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. Pursuant to the Anti-SLAPP law, a defendant in a SLAPP suit is not civilly liable for the protected communications and they can move to have the SLAPP suit dismissed or stayed. Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease, or in this case, the lawsuit. Just make sure your lawsuit isn’t aimed at preventing someone from exercising their protected rights or you might get SLAPPed.