I am not a wrestling fan. So I don’t know if it’s true that Ted DiBiase, who wrestled as “The Million Dollar Man,” “is regarded by many as the greatest villain in pro wrestling history.” What I do know is that DiBiase’s theme song included the line “everybody’s gonna pay.” For parties that have recently found themselves on the losing end of anti-SLAPP special motions to dismiss under the D.C. anti-SLAPP statute, they have discovered exactly how much they’re “gonna pay”
First, some background. The D.C. anti-SLAPP statute’s legislative history explained that “defendants of a SLAPP must dedicate a substantial amount of money, time, and legal resources.” As such, the statute included a fee-shifting provision that allows a successful movant to recover its fees. The D.C. Court of Appeals has interpreted this provision to mean a successful movant is “presumptively” entitled to recover its fees “unless special circumstances in the case make a fee award unjust.”
So, how much does it cost to prevail on an anti-SLAPP special motion to dismiss under the D.C. statute? Judging from some recent filings – approximately $125,000.
For example, after journalist Jose Gallego prevailed on his anti-SLAPP special motion to dismiss the suit brought by JAP Home Solutions, he sought to recover over $125,000 in fees and costs. The parties settled the fee dispute before the Superior Court ruled on Gallego’s motion.
Then Forest Hills Neighborhood Alliance and Jane Soloman filed a motion seeking over $128,000 in fees and costs allegedly incurred in their successful anti-SLAPP special motion to dismiss. That fee application remains pending in the Superior Court while the case is on appeal.
In late June, PBS sought over $114,000 in fees and costs allegedly incurred in prevailing on its anti-SLAPP special motion to dismiss the tortious interference claims brought by Tavis Smiley’s companies. Superior Court Judge Epstein ultimately awarded PBS over $96,000.
Most recently, Christopher Steele and Orbis moved to recover over $127,000 in fees and costs allegedly incurred in successfully prevailing on their anti-SLAPP special motion to dismiss. (The parties have agreed to stay the fees dispute until the Court of Appeals rules on the plaintiffs’ appeal).
My two cents: these motions underscore the importance of the D.C. anti-SLAPP statute. In each of these cases, a Superior Court judge concluded a plaintiff was unlikely to prevail on the merits of a claim that arose “from an act in furtherance of the right of advocacy on issues of public interest.” Without the D.C. anti-SLAPP statute, even if these defendants prevailed on their Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss, they would not have recovered their fees. By allowing a successful movant to recover its fees, the D.C. Council wisely provided a remedy, by providing that losing parties “gonna pay.”