Billionaire Steve Wynn, Who Once Tried To Kill Nevada's Anti-SLAPP Law, Loses Defamation Case Under That Law

from the now-you-see-why... dept

Back in 2015, we wrote about some apparent backroom dealing in Nevada, in which the legislature seemed poised to get rid of that state’s very good and thorough anti-SLAPP law. As a reminder, anti-SLAPP laws are designed to stop an unfortunately common practice of wealthy individuals and companies from suing critics and reporters for defamation, even though the defamation cases themselves had no chance. The plaintiffs knew that merely dragging the defendant to court would be costly in terms of time, money and general stress. Anti-SLAPP laws were a way to deal with that unfortunately common practice usually by (1) putting the immediate burden on the plaintiff to show a likelihood of success and then dismissing the case quickly if they fail to do so, (2) halting the expensive and time-consuming discovery process, and (3) often making the plaintiffs pay the defendants’ legal fees. The idea is that this is a deterrent to frivolous lawsuits, while leaving legitimate defamation lawsuits unharmed. As we’ve pointed out for years, unfortunately, only about half of the states have such anti-SLAPP laws, of varying quality, and there is still no federal anti-SLAPP law.

In 2013, Nevada passed one of the best anti-SLAPP laws in the country. But, by 2015, there was an effort underway to throw it out. Nevada-based lawyer, Marc Randazza, pointed out that it appeared that billionaire Steve Wynn was a driving force behind the effort to kill Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law, perhaps in response to having recently lost a defamation lawsuit in California, thanks to California’s own anti-SLAPP law. Thankfully, that effort failed.

And now the National Law Review is pointing out that Wynn has lost yet another defamation lawsuit, under the very Nevada anti-SLAPP law that he was rumored to be seeking to get rid of a few years back. National Law Review has the full story in which Wynn sued the Associated Press and one of its reporters, Regina Garcia Cano.

After the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) in February released a public statement describing allegations by two women that Mr. Wynn had sexually harassed or assaulted them, AP reporter Regina Garcia Cano filed a public records request. Copies?redacted to protect information that would have identified the two alleged victims?were produced by the LVMPD to Ms. Cano. The AP published Ms. Cano’s report summarizing the two records?both of which concerned alleged incidents that happened in the 1970s?and Ms. Cano included the LVMPD’s statements that it could not investigate the allegations because of Nevada’s 20-year statute of limitations, but that it had passed to Chicago authorities a report concerning the incident alleged to have occurred there. That report included both a description of the alleged assaults and the claim by the alleged victim that she had later given birth to Mr. Wynn’s child in unusual circumstances in a gas station restroom?a claim Ms. Cano paraphrased in her article.

Mr. Wynn asserted defamation based only on the portion of the article summarizing the incident that was alleged to have taken place in Chicago, contending that the complainant was “delusional” and that the AP’s failure to quote verbatim the description of the alleged childbirth scenario rendered the news article unfair because readers would have found the allegation incredible if they had read the entire police case report.

The court, however, did not buy it according to the National Law Review. Unfortunately, Nevada’s District Court doesn’t post court documents online, so we don’t have the full ruling, but the NLR notes that, using Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law, “The court held that the challenged news report was absolutely privileged as a fair and accurate summary of a publicly available police case report reflecting a woman’s allegation that Mr. Wynn had sexually assaulted her years earlier.”

Of course, Wynn’s attorney is quoted in the article saying that they will appeal this ruling, once again keeping the AP and Ms. Cano in court for much longer. The ruling does entitle the AP to legal fees, and those legal fees seem likely to increase as the appeal continues. But if the goal of the process is just to keep the AP and Cano in court as long as possible, that might not be of that much concern. Still, this is why these kinds of anti-SLAPP laws are so important, why we need more of them, and why they need to be protected from those who seek to use the court system to harass and burden critics and reporters.

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Comments on “Billionaire Steve Wynn, Who Once Tried To Kill Nevada's Anti-SLAPP Law, Loses Defamation Case Under That Law”

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24 Comments
John Smith says:

Re: A Slapp in the face

Anti-SLAPP laws can be abused just as easily as defamation law. Not sure they get fees on appeal btw. Might want to look into that.

How difficult would it be for a lawyer to pay someone to defame someone known to be litigious, then rush in to collect the fees by “defending free speech” either for a rich person who pays up front, or a poor person for whom it is crowdsourced.

Not naming names here, nor am I virtue signaling. I’m not the Pope after all…oh wait the church has its own scandals to bear.

DB (profile) says:

Re: Re: A Slapp in the face

How is that a flaw?

Saying bad things about a person or corporation known to be litigious will not force them to file a bogus lawsuit. They are choosing to abuse the courts to punish someone, and now doing so won’t work as well.

If the situation (and speech) is truly defamatory, then anti-SLAPP legislation wouldn’t apply.

John Smith says:

Re: Re: Re: A Slapp in the face

I’m not talking about “mean things” or namecalling, but outright lies fed to people prone to believing them (pawns) and repeating them, which induees liability that the lawyer/mastermind can then minimize while telling the pawn that they have nothing to worry about. People get very irrational in internet arguments.

The scam is a little more intricate. The lawyer can pay someone to defame the person on a third party website, then wait for others to argue with the litigious target, who then sues.

Just as one can file a frivolous defamation suit, a lawyer can call any legitimate suit frivolous. Many lawyers make good money off internet conflicts and some do set people up this way. Some pawns are financially ruined because some lawyer set them up like a bowling pin. I gues it would be the pawn’s fault for believing what they read online.

Take the case of the serial killer who called the employer of the woman he was stalking, and got her fired. the woman could have filed a wrongful termination lawsuit. The same scenario could be engineered by a lawyer very easily (in this case it was not but in others it could be).

This isn’t really the place to be naming names. Suffice it to say I’m not surprised so many on this site would discount this concern.

Reputation blackmail is another problem of Secvtion 230. Russians e-mail some white-collar professional (or restaurant owner) demanidfng $5,000 for not ruining their name online. Many pay this ransom which funds future scams.

then of coruse you have the internet vigilantes who actually commit violence based on lies, as has happened several times in the UK, India, and the US. In each case, defenders of Section 230 put the rights of internet companies above the rights or even the lives of individuals.

google-proof names are the simplest solution.

ralph_the_bus_driver (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 A Slapp in the face

Obviously you know nothing about libel laws and how a defamation suit is handled.

Before you start with all your “yabutt, what if …” scenarios, it would depend on the incident. Getting a woman fired is not defamation, most likely it is harassment, a criminal charge. The employer is not responsible for reacting to defamation but the harasser is.

John Smith says:

Re: Re: Re: A Slapp in the face

I’m not talking about “mean things” or namecalling, but outright lies fed to people prone to believing them (pawns) and repeating them, which induees liability that the lawyer/mastermind can then minimize while telling the pawn that they have nothing to worry about. People get very irrational in internet arguments.

The scam is a little more intricate. The lawyer can pay someone to defame the person on a third party website, then wait for others to argue with the litigious target, who then sues.

Just as one can file a frivolous defamation suit, a lawyer can call any legitimate suit frivolous. Many lawyers make good money off internet conflicts and some do set people up this way. Some pawns are financially ruined because some lawyer set them up like a bowling pin. I gues it would be the pawn’s fault for believing what they read online.

Take the case of the serial killer who called the employer of the woman he was stalking, and got her fired. the woman could have filed a wrongful termination lawsuit. The same scenario could be engineered by a lawyer very easily (in this case it was not but in others it could be).

This isn’t really the place to be naming names. Suffice it to say I’m not surprised so many on this site would discount this concern.

Reputation blackmail is another problem of Secvtion 230. Russians e-mail some white-collar professional (or restaurant owner) demanidfng $5,000 for not ruining their name online. Many pay this ransom which funds future scams.

then of coruse you have the internet vigilantes who actually commit violence based on lies, as has happened several times in the UK, India, and the US. In each case, defenders of Section 230 put the rights of internet companies above the rights or even the lives of individuals.

google-proof names are the simplest solution.

John Smith says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well the constitution isn’t violated because the fees are not recoverable ont he appeal (there’s a lot of precedent for this in other cases).

The Equal Protection Clause, though no one has ever argued it that I know of. Perhaps someone will. Also a pro se litigant can’t seek attorney fees so that could be considered a violation as well. Then there’s Rule 68, which should also be reciprocal in that if the offer of settlement is rejected, and the Plaintif recovers moer 75 percent of the offer, the defendant should be on the hook. We’re not there yet though. It took 150 years for Plessy to be overturned.

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