Gravel and Shea Attorneys Obtain Dismissal of Defamation Claim Under Anti-SLAPP Statute

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Gravel & Shea, P.C. attorneys, Matthew B. Byrne and Robert B. Hemley prevailed on a motion to strike the complaint in a defamation action against the Rutland Herald and its former reporter. The plaintiff sought $212 million in damages because plaintiff claimed the newspaper had published stories about his having been charged criminally with making false allegations against the Windham County Sheriff. The Court ruled that the articles had reasonable factual support and that the newspaper and its reporter are protected from liability by the Vermont anti-SLAPP statute. Anti-SLAPP laws make it unlawful to file a “strategic lawsuit against public participation” that is intended to silence critics, like newspapers, by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense. Because the lawsuit violated the anti-SLAPP law, the Court held that the Rutland Herald was entitled to recover from the plaintiff the attorneys’ fees it expended in having to defend the action.