Lehan v. Fox Television Stations, Inc.

Lehan v. Fox Television Stations, Inc., Case No. 2011-ca-4592 (DC Superior Court)

Importance: In the first Opinion and Order issued under the DC anti-SLAPP statute, the DC Superior Court granted Channel 5’s anti-SLAPP motion. The Court held that, although the statute was not effective when the allegedly defamatory story was published, the defendants could nevertheless use the statute against the complaint.

Summary: Lehan filed suit, alleging that a Channel 5 story defamed him by reporting that he was a significant beneficiary of overtime in the DC fire department and that he had authority over the overtime assignment system.

The DC Superior Court held that, although the statute became effective three months after the report at issue was published, it could be applied in the pending case because it did not substantively change the plaintiff’s burden of proof. The Court held that the subject of the report (overtime by the fire department) was a matter of public interest, that plaintiff failed to show that Channel 5 published the report with the requisite degree of fault, and that he had not been damaged.

Lehan did not file a notice of appeal, and the defendants did not seek attorneys’ fees.

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