I regret that the press of work kept me away from this site for quite some time, other than the podcasts that I've continued to work on. It looks like I'm going to be able to come up for air, so I am going to get back to posting on a more regular basis.
In Trilogy at Glen Ivy Maintenance Association, et al. v. Shea Homes, Inc., et al. (pub. ord. Mar. 19, 2015), the Court of Appeal (Fourth Appellate District, Division One) affirmed a trial court finding that an anti-SLAPP Motion lacked merit for failure to satisfy even the first prong of the two-part anti-SLAPP analysis. As summarized by the Court, under the first step, "the defendant bringing an anti-SLAPP motion must make a prima facie showing that the plaintiff's suit is subject to section 425.16 by showing the plaintiff's claims arise from conduct by the defendant taken in furtherance of the defendant's constitutional rights of petition, or free speech in connection with a public issue, as defined by the statute." Slip op., at 7-8.
The Court explained that, when evaluating whether a claim arises from protected speech, a trial court must look to the gravamen of the claim:
[W]e disregard the labeling of the claim (Ramona Unified School Dist. v. Tsiknas (2005) 135 Cal.App.4th 510, 522) and instead "examine the principal thrust or gravamen of a plaintiff's cause of action to determine whether the anti-SLAPP statute applies" and whether the trial court correctly ruled on the anti-SLAPP motion. (Id. at pp. 519-522.) We assess the principal thrust by identifying "the allegedly wrongful and injury-producing conduct . . . that provides the foundation for the claim." (Martinez v. Metabolife Internat., Inc. (2003) 113 Cal.App.4th 181, 189.) If the core injury-causing conduct on which the plaintiff's claim is premised does not rest on protected speech, collateral or incidental allusions to protected activity will not trigger application of the anti-SLAPP statute. (Ibid.)
Slip op., at 9. Following from this distinction, the Court concluded that the unusual choice of wording in the complaint was irrelevant to the analysis of the actual gravamen of the claim. Specifically, the plaintiff used the word "repudiation" to describe a species of fiduciary breach, leading the defendant to claim that the complaint was about speech. The Court was not persuaded, correctly identifying the fiduciary breach "gravamen" of the complaint.