(CN) - A California appeals court reinstated a legal malpractice suit brought by digital broadcast company PrediWave, saying the claims weren't protected under anti-SLAPP law.
PrediWave sued Simpson Thacher & Bartlett for alleged fraud and professional negligence, claiming the firm simultaneously represented PrediWave and the company's former president, Jianping "Tony" Qu, who had allegedly "looted PrediWave and its affiliates of more than $100 million in 'unearned' bonuses and other abusive perquisites."
The law firm responded with an anti-SLAPP motion, which the trial court granted. Anti-SLAPP statutes protect defendants from lawsuits meant to intimidate, censor or harass.
The Sixth District Court of Appeal overturned the trial court's decision, ruling that the law firm could not move to strike the suit because PrediWave's claims were not based on protected speech under the state's anti-SLAPP statute.
Simpson Thacher failed to show that claims against the firm for alleged wrongful conduct were a public issue or related to an issue of public interest, so the case was not subject to a motion to strike, the appeals court ruled.
PrediWave's case was not an attempt to deter the firm's free speech or right to petition, but rather to complain about their former attorneys' performance, Justice Franklin Elia ruled. The anti-SLAPP statute does not apply to client cases against former attorneys, Elia added.
"[D]efendants did not satisfy their threshold burden of demonstrating that the principle thrust of any of the complaint's causes of action was activity protected by the anti-SLAPP statute," the court concluded.
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