Court of Appeal Reverses With Directions to Trial Court to Determine if SLAPP Defendant is Entitled to Fees and the Reasonable Amount of Any Award.
Our next case, Fremont Reorganizing Corporation v. Faigin, Case No. B218178 (Second Dist. Div. 3, August 30, 2011 (certified for publication) concerns an in-house attorney who sued his alleged joint employers for wrongful termination, and who then had to defend against a cross-complaint brought against him. The cross-complaint alleged that the attorney had wrongfully informed the Insurance Commission that the attorney’s former clients were wrongfully planning to auction certain artworks, breaching professional and fiduciary duties along the way. The attorney claimed that his communicative conduct was protected speech and subject to the litigation privilege. The trial court granted the attorney’s anti-SLAPP motion and awarded fees. The attorney appealed.
The Court of Appeal partially reversed the order granting a special motion to strike and reversed the award for attorney’s fees. Because the attorney/cross-defendant was partially successful with his anti-SLAPP motion, the trial court will now get to exercise its discretion: “A court awarding fees to the moving party on a partially successful anti-SLAPP motion must exercise its discretion in determining the amount of fees and costs to award in light of the moving party’s relative success in achieving its litigation objectives. . . . The trial court on remand must exercise its discretion in determining whether Faigin is a prevailing cross-defendant, and if so, the appropriate amount of fees and costs to award.”
The 3-0 opinion was authored by Justice Croskey.