Since the complaints were filed, New York broadened its anti-SLAPP protections in an effort to deter frivolous lawsuits arising from the exercise of free speech. First, Kesha seized on the opportunity and a judge found Gottwald will have to prove actual malice (knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for the truth) in order to prevail on his defamation claim — even though the court had previously found he's a private figure. Under the new law, that doesn't matter if the topic of discussion is a matter of public interest.
Now, it's Geragos' turn. Judge Shawn Kelly on Thursday granted Geragos' request to amend his answer to the complaint and assert a claim for attorney's fees under the new anti-SLAPP statute. A source familiar with the matter says Gottwald could be on the hook for "millions of dollars in legal fees" if Geragos prevails on the SLAPP motion.
Gottwald opposed the motion, arguing the allegedly defamatory statements at issue don't concern a matter of public interest and an anti-SLAPP motion would fail because his suit isn't frivolous.
Kelly didn't agree. "[T]he alleged defamatory statements relate to posts on Twitter and a subsequent comment to TMC," writes Kelly in the order, which is embedded below. "These forums are inarguably public and further, Plaintiff is a famous ‘Grammy-nominated songwriter and record producer' who operates ‘his own record label and publishing company.'"
Kelly also noted it's not yet clear whether Gottwald will ultimately prevail on the merits of his claim, Geragos isn't required to prove his counterclaim will prevail at this stage, and the counterclaim is "not patently without merit, nor is it futile."
Read the judge's decision/order on the motion here. This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.