On July 22, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision affirming the Federal District Court order granting both a motion to dismiss and a motion for attorney’s fees filed by Lipson Neilson attorneys Joe Garin, Megan Hummel and Amber Williams in a lawsuit brought by an insurance company against an attorney in violation of Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statute.
The dispute arose from Plaintiff’s decision to deny coverage to an insured who had been named as a defendant in a catastrophic personal injury lawsuit. After a state court judge entered an $18 million default judgment against the insured, Plaintiff was named in a bad faith action pursuant to a valid assignment of rights from its insured to the injured party. To avoid liability, Plaintiff filed a separate lawsuit against the attorneys involved in the personal injury action, asserting that they violated Nevada’s RICO statutes and engaged in a conspiracy by negotiating a settlement and covenant not to execute after Plaintiff refused to provide a defense.
The Federal District Court granted dismissal with prejudice in favor of the attorneys pursuant to NRS 41.660, a statute which prohibits Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, or “SLAPP suits.” The District court also granted a subsequent motion for attorney’s fees.
On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court orders, finding that:
1. The attorneys established the communications at issue were made in good faith and without knowledge of falsehood.
2. That Plaintiff was not entitled to conduct discovery as “[t]he problem with Plaintiff’s complaint [was] not the sufficiency of the allegations, but the very nature of the allegations – that they target protected communications in an effort to suppress those communications.”
3. That the district court correctly awarded attorney’s fees pursuant to the penalty provisions of the anti-SLAPP statute.
Century Surety Company v. Dennis Prince, et al.; Ninth Circuit Case No. 17-16645.
Founded in 1985, Lipson Neilson has grown from three founding members to thirty-four attorneys in Nevada, Michigan and Arizona. The firm is widely known for its excellence in the professional liability lines, offering invaluable insight and experience to clients across all industries. Learn more at www.lipsonneilson.com.
Contact: Joe Garin