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The Anti-SLAPP Evolution Continues: California Supreme Court Confirms Anti-SLAPP Protection Can Apply to Retaliation and Discrimination Claims

Does Anti-SLAPP protection apply to retaliation and discrimination cases? The answer is yes.

On July 22, 2019, the Supreme Court of California decided Wilson v. CNN, thereby answering an important, open question of law: Does Anti-SLAPP protection apply to retaliation and discrimination cases? The answer is yes. If a plaintiff sues for retaliation or discrimination based on the defendant’s protected speech or petitioning activity, the Anti-SLAPP statute applies, and a plaintiff will still need to show a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits to survive an Anti-SLAPP challenge.  

The Court’s decision, which addressed an employee’s discrimination and retaliation claims, is an important win not only for all California employers, but also for the state’s hospitals and their medical staffs. In the health care and hospital context, the Court’s decision raises hopes that the Anti-SLAPP statute will continue to protect medical staffs from frivolous retaliation lawsuits brought by disgruntled physicians who were disciplined fairly through protected peer review processes. In Wilson, the Court explicitly disapproved of Bonni v. St. Joseph Health System (2017) 13 Cal.App.5th 851, where the Court of Appeal held that a summarily-suspended physician’s allegation of a retaliatory motivation behind his peer review activity means the Anti-SLAPP statute does not apply. Arent Fox represents the defendants in the Bonni case and successfully petitioned the California Supreme Court to grant review of the Court of Appeal’s decision.  

Arent Fox will publish a more detailed analysis of Wilson v. CNN in the days to come, and will continue to monitor Anti-SLAPP developments closely.

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