Ninth Circuit Upholds Anti-SLAPP Ruling for Blogger/Griper–Sedgwick v. Delsman

By Eric Goldman

Sedgwick Claims Management Services v. Delsman, 09-16809 (9th Cir. March 21, 2011).

Delsman is a blogging griper about Sedgwick. He made some griping material that included cut-and-pasted headshots of Sedgwick’s managers. Sedgwick sued Delsman aggressively. Delsman got a favorable ruling in the district court, including a fair use ruling on the headshots and an anti-SLAPP ruling on the other claims. Shockingly, rather than quietly licking their wounds, Sedgwick appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit.

The Ninth Circuit gave Sedgwick a cool reception. In an unpublished 2 page memorandum opinion issued without oral argument, the court breezily told Sedgwick to buzz off. The entire substance of the ruling:

The district court properly dismissed Sedgwick’s defamation and trade libel claims under California’s anti-SLAPP statute because defendant Delsman’s conduct was in furtherance of his free speech rights in connection with an issue of public interest, and Sedgwick did not meet its burden of establishing a probability

of prevailing on its claims. See Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 425.16; Ruiz v. Harbor View Cmty. Ass’n, 37 Cal. Rptr. 3d 133, 140-46 (Ct. App. 2005) (setting forth § 425.16 analysis, and concluding that defendant’s letter containing rhetorical

hyperbole was free speech in connection with an issue of public interest and that plaintiff did not establish a probability of prevailing on his libel claim).

The court’s final words are: “Sedgwick’s remaining contentions are unpersuasive.” It would be hard for the Ninth Circuit to make their lack of interest in Sedgwick’s appeal any clearer.

This is a good example of why I think we need a federal anti-SLAPP law. It’s not clear the same results would occur in other states with anti-SLAPP laws; undoubtedly, worse results would occur in states with no anti-SLAPP protection.