A SLAPP motion is a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Essentially, the motion assists in burying someone in legal fees, dooming their case. . .
Storage Wars ex-star David Hester must now pick up some of A&E’s legal bill after losing the first round of a lawsuit that contends the highly rated reality TV series is rigged. At a hearing Friday, a Los Angeles judge ordered Hester to pay $122,692 of the defendants’ legal costs.
In December, Hester sued A&E and Original Productions with allegations that producers planted items of memorabilia that influenced the outcome of the auction-themed show. Hester says he was let go after complaining, which his attorney says constitutes wrongful termination in violation of public policy. Further, Hester claimed that A&E and Original engaged in unfair business practices insofar as producers allegedly making it appear that he was less skillful than his competition and thus prompting other vendors to stop doing business with his shops.
A&E responded by saying that Hester was attempting to portray himself as a crusading whistleblower when really he was upset at how contract negotiations were going to return to the series. The defendants also brought an anti-SLAPP motion, saying that Storage Wars was protected by the First Amendment and that Hester was unlikely to win.
In March, A&E was successful in getting the judge to reject the unfair business practices claim. The lawsuit proceeds, but because A&E was victorious on its anti-SLAPP motion, it was entitled to attorney fees and costs.
The defendants submitted $181,457 — or $138,194 for A&E, incurred by its attorneys at Davis Wright Tremaine; and $43,263 for Original, incurred by its attorneys at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp.
A&E was paying its lawyers hourly rates ranging from $260 to $485 to work on the case while Original was paying $370 to $485. (There were separate expenses for paralegals.)
To beat Hester’s claim, the defendants argued that courts have only applied “unfair business practices” to commercial speech, not expressive works like television programs.
The defendant’s lawyers including THR Power Lawyer Kelli Sager collectively spent 354 hours on the anti-SLAPP motion, which included having to refute Hester’s contention that A&E’s press release constituted commercial speech. Plus, they say they spent 79 hours for the fee motion.
It is an interesting process, fighting or trying to level a SLAPP allegation.