Judge Allows Anti-SLAPP Motion, Awards Fees

Joshua Garick  -  Jan 14, 2013  -  Comments Off on Judge Allows Anti-SLAPP Motion, Awards Fees

January 14, 2013:

A judge sitting in the Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court allowed two motions brought by Attorney Joshua N. Garick seeking to protect his clients against a baseless counterclaim brought solely for filing suit. The Court allowed a motion to dismiss the counterclaim, and a special motion to dismiss the counterclaim under the anti-SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation) statute.  G. L. c. 231, § 59H. In granting the anti-SLAPP motion, the court awarded Mr. Garick’s clients $2,250.00 in attorneys fees.

About the Case:  This case is a consumer protection action brought by customers of Jack Madden Ford Sales, Inc. The complaint alleged several causes of action including odometer tampering and unfair/deceptive business practices (G. L. c. 93A). The complaint alleged that Madden Ford sold two defective vehicles.  The complaint further alleges that the odometer in one of these cars was tampered with, resulting in an extended warranty purchased by the plaintiffs becoming void. In answering the complaint, Madden Ford filed an abuse of process counterclaim against the plaintiffs because “the [odometer] claims . . . lack a good faith basis and were brought with a reckless disregard for the legal process.”

The Anti-SLAPP Motion:  Attorney Garick filed a special motion to dismiss under the anti-SLAPP statute. This statute provides expeditious dismissal of a claim (or in this case, a counterclaim) brought solely for purposes of stifling a party’s right to petition government under the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. Mr. Garick argued that the abuse of process counterclaim was filed as a punitive measure for his clients having filed suit against Madden Ford. He argued that the counterclaim lacked any good faith basis, and was only premised upon his clients’ petitioning activity.

The Court’s Decision:  The Court agreed with Mr. Garick. In its nine page decision, the Court found that the complaints against Madden Ford were legitimate, worthy of consideration, and were not abusive. The Court stated: “[Madden Ford] admits that the odometer statement, at least, was inaccurate . . . .” The Court went on to state “there can be no dispute but that the basis of the conduct complained of in the counterclaim is the petitioning activity itself – filing the lawsuit.” Accordingly, the Court dismissed the abuse of process counterclaim, and awarded the plaintiffs $2,250.00 in legal fees.

Protecting Clients Interests:  The Law Offices of Joshua N. Garick is committed to protecting its clients at all stages of the litigation. No plaintiff should be fearful that filing suit will automatically expose them to a baseless counterclaim or legal liability. The Court’s decision underscored the importance of having unfettered access to the judiciary. If counterclaims are filed against you for filing suit, Attorney Garick will be there to protect you and your constitutional right to petition the courts.

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