Monday, February 4, 2019

Symmonds v. Mahoney

Defendants Edward Joseph Mahoney, also known as Eddie Money, and Eddie Money Entertainment, Inc. (collectively, defendants) appeal from the trial court’s order denying a special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, the anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute. 

Mahoney is a singer and songwriter who performs in concerts across the country.  In 2015 he terminated his drummer, plaintiff and respondent Glenn Symmonds, who subsequently sued defendants for discrimination on the basis of age, disability, and medical condition.  Defendants filed an anti-SLAPP motion arguing that Mahoney’s decision as to which musicians performed with him was an act in furtherance of the exercise of his constitutional right of free speech in connection with an issue of public interest, and thus protected under section 425.16.

The trial court denied the motion, finding that Symmonds’ cause of action arose from defendants’ discriminatory conduct, not the decision to terminate him, and thus Symmonds’ claim did not implicate Mahoney’s free speech rights.

We hold that defendants met their burden to establish that Mahoney’s decision to terminate Symmonds was protected conduct.  Accordingly, we reverse and remand so the trial court may conduct the second step of the anti-SLAPP analysis and determine whether Symmonds has demonstrated a probability of prevailing on the merits of his claim.  We deny Symmonds’ requests for attorney fees and sanctions. 

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