August 1, 2012
“California Patient Wins Anti-SLAPP Motion Against Doctor She Criticized”
Maura Larkins, Thank Heaven For Insurance Companies
Party Issuing Legal Threat: Dr. Aaron Filler; Aaron Filler, MD, PHD, APC; Imagebased Surgicenter Corporation; Neurograph Institute Medical Associates
Party Receiving Legal Threat: Susan Walker; Does 1-25
Dr. Aaron Filler filed a complaint against former patient Susan Walker in Los Angeles Superior Court on May 31, 2011. In his complaint, Filler alleged defamation and interference with prospective economic advantage in response to Walker’s review of Dr. Filler on a physician rating site.
On August 24, 2011, Walker filed a motion to strike based on California Code of Civil Procedure §§ 425.16 and 45, California’s anti-SLAPP statute. Walker’s motion argues that Walker is shielded from liability as the “dissemination of consumer information about medical care is a vital ‘public issue’ and the internet is a ‘public forum’,” and that Dr. Filler is a public figure subject to the burden of proving actual malice. Dr. Filler filed an opposition to this motion on September 16, 2011, also requesting leave to amend the complaint to plead more specific factual allegations to establish actual malice. Walker replied to Filler’s opposition on September 22, 2011.
After a hearing on April 19, 2011, Walker’s motion to strike was granted. In the order filed on May 8, 2012, Judge Elizabeth White held that Filler’s claims arose from Walker’s act of free speech in connection with a public issue under CCP § 425.16 and that Filler did not establish a probability of prevailing on these claims. In accordance with this order, Judge White later ordered Filler to pay $50,259.65 to Walker for attorneys’ fees and costs.