New Cases Of Interest – February 28, 2020

Ojjeh v. Brown (2019) 43 Cal.App.5th 1027.

The defendants solicited and obtained investments from the plaintiff to produce a documentary film on the refugee crisis in Syria.  Plaintiff subsequently sued claiming that no significant or substantial work had been performed on the film and that defendants had breached their contractual obligations, defrauded him of his investments and used his investments for purposes unrelated to the film.  Defendants filed a SLAPP motion.  The court concluded that the defendants had made a prima facia showing that the complaint targeted conduct falling within the “catchall” provision of the SLAPP statute, CCP § 425.6(e)(4) and that defendant’s solicitation of investments and subsequent performance of allegedly unsatisfactory work constituted activity in furtherance of defendant’s right of free speech in connection with an issue of public interest.  The matter was remanded for further proceedings.

Serova v. Sony Music Entertainment (2020) 44 Cal.App.5th 103.

This was a previously reported case which the Supreme Court had granted review of and transferred the case back to the court for reconsideration in light of new case law.  The court of appeal determined that its original opinion on the matter was correct.  Plaintiff had alleged that an album cover in a promotional video misleadingly represented that a deceased artist was the lead singer even though he was not the lead singer on three of the tracks and the Defendant marketers filed the SLAPP motion.  The court determined that the marketer’s statements merited protection under the SLAPP statute, despite their commercial purpose, because they related directly to a controversy over the identity of the singer on the disputed tracks which was an issue of widespread interest among the artist’s fans.  Plaintiff did not show a probability of prevailing on the unfair competition law claim and Consumer Legal Remedies Act claim as the statements were noncommercial speech outside the scope of consumer protection statutes.  The statements directly connected to the music should receive full First Amendment protection.

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