Doctor Suing A Patient Over A Negative Review Has His Case Dismissed Under Tennessee's New Anti-SLAPP Law
from the when-your-attorney-doesn't-seem-to-be-aware-of-updates-to-the-law dept
For the second time in less than a month, I’m reporting on Tennessee attorney Dan Horwitz’s anti-SLAPP powers. The state — once home to a bunch of really stupid defamation lawsuits targeting protected speech — is no longer as welcoming to this particularly vexatious form of litigation thanks to its new anti-SLAPP law.
No sooner had the law passed than a doctor decided to sue a patient over an unfavorable Yelp review. Dr. Kaveer Nandigam was apparently unhappy Kelly Beavers recorded an appointment with her father, who is suffering from dementia. Beavers routinely did this to ensure she was providing proper care for her dad. Dr. Nandigam took exception to her recording process, demanding she delete the recording and yelling at her for doing something fully within her rights (Tennessee is a one-party consent state).
Beavers expressed her displeasure on Yelp and Dr. Nandigam expressed his displeasure by suing her. He dropped the lawsuit when Beavers secured the assistance of Dan Horwitz, who has been beating back bullshit lawsuits in Tennessee for years now.
But this win was very short-lived. Nandigam refiled his dismissed lawsuit in the county’s General Sessions Court, supposedly for “procedural reasons.” Maybe so, but it seems like the not-so-good doctor maybe thought doing a court switcheroo would shake his anti-SLAPP tail, personified by Horwitz.
It didn’t work. Horwitz is now reporting he’s secured a win that will keep Nandigam from trying to fire up his SLAPP suit for a third time. (Well… barring any inexplicable takes from the state’s appeals court.)
Several defendants quickly benefited from the TPPA’s [Tennessee Public Participation Act] added protections after the statute took effect, resulting in plaintiffs quickly dropping defamation claims or providing additional bases for dismissal in speech-based lawsuits that were ultimately dismissed on other grounds. Today, however, in a ruling by Wilson County General Sessions Judge Barry Tatum, the first-ever petition to dismiss a plaintiff’s claims under the Tennessee Public Participation Act has been granted.
The one-page order dismisses the case with prejudice and says all costs will be paid by Dr. Nandigam. Horwitz and Beavers are still waiting for a ruling on legal fees and/or sanctions but the law is on Horwitz’s side. The state’s anti-SLAPP law allows the prevailing party to recover fees and this swift dismissal (with prejudice) of Nandigam’s second attempt suggests that will go Beavers’ way as well.
The law works. It should work better this time around with a full dismissal, rather than a case dropped just so the plaintiff could try again in an adjacent venue. If Nandigam ends up having to pay the winner’s legal fees, the new anti-SLAPP law may finally act as a deterrent, with the doctor providing a test case other attorneys can use to dissuade similarly-aggrieved residents from suing people for criticizing them.