Legal Action

Trade secrets, non-compete, etc.

Communication

Discussions, deposition testimony, emails, etc.

Right Involved

Freedom of speech, association and petition.

Background

Statute

Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA), TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. § 27.001 et. seq. 

Case

Lie, et. al. v. NPIC, 05-18-01014-CV, (Tex. App. – Dallas June 21, 2019, no p. h.)

Facts

Filing a Texas anti-SLAPP motion after an injunction hearing is frivolous

This is a trade secrets, non-compete, etc. case. After the case was filed, there was a temporary injunction hearing at which the trial court heard evidence supporting the claims of NPIC. Defendants filed their Texas anti-SLAPP, TCPA, motion to dismiss after the temporary injunction hearing. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss and awarded attorney’s fees to NPIC because, it found, the Texas anti-SLAPP motion was frivolous.

The Texas Anti-SLAPP law or TCPA has a three step process. In step one, the movant bears the burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that the nonmovant’s claim is a legal action in response to the movant’s exercise of his right of association, his exercise of his right of free speech or his exercise of his right to petition. §27.003 (a).

We conclude that appellants failed to satisfy their initial burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that NPIC’s legal action was based on, relates to, or is in response to appellants’ exercise of the right of free speech, the right to petition, or the right of association.

Once the movant has shown that the nonmovant’s legal action is covered by the act, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to demonstrate a prima facie case for each essential element of a cause of action by “clear and specific evidence.” §27.005 (c).

Not reached because NPIC’s claims were not “legal actions“.

If the nonmovant meets his burden of establishing a prima facie case for each essential element of a cause of action by “clear and specific evidence”, the court must still grant the motion to dismiss if the movant establishes a valid defense by a “preponderance of evidence. §27.005 (d).

Not reached because NPIC’s claims were not “legal actions“.

Conclusion and Disposition

Filing a Texas anti-SLAPP motion after an injunction hearing is frivolous

NPIC argued that because of the extensive discovery and evidence presented at the temporary injunction hearing, even if the trial court had found that the Texas anti-SLAPP, TCPA, applied, the defendants knew that NPIC  had clear and specific evidence of each essential element of their causes of action.

NPIC argued that by granting a temporary injunction, the trial court had already found NPIC had a probable right to relief on its claims. NPIC argued, “[w]ith full knowledge of the significant evidence in this case giving rise to at the very least a prima facie case of Plaintiffs’ claims, Defendants still filed and set for hearing its [TCPA] Motion.” NPIC requested an award of costs and attorney’s fees “as a result of having to defend against this Motion.” NPIC attached affidavits and other evidence to its response. After further briefing and a hearing, the trial court denied appellants’ motion. The court also found that the motion was frivolous, and awarded NPIC its reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred as a result of the motion. Appellants brought this interlocutory appeal.

The trial court had already heard evidence supporting NPIC’s pleaded causes of action at the time appellants filed their motion to dismiss. We conclude it was within the trial court’s discretion to find that appellants’ motion to dismiss was frivolous. See CIV. PRAC. & REM. § 27.009(b). We decide appellants’ second issue against them.
Pinghua Lei v. Nat. Polymer Int’l Corp. (Tex. App., 2019)

Get Notified of New Post