Texas Court of Appeals Overturns Trial Court Under Anti-SLAPP Act
TYLER, October 5, 2016 – Edward M. Slaughter of Hawkins Parnell Thackston & Young LLP and Brandon W. Maxey of Hartline Dacus Barger Dreyer LLP persuaded the Twelfth Court of Appeals of Texas to reverse a trial court’s decision under the Texas Citizens Participation Act, often referred to as the anti-SLAPP act. The purpose of the TCPA is to “encourage and safeguard the constitutional rights of persons to petition, speak freely, associate freely, and otherwise participate in government to the maximum extent permitted by law…” Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code ann. § 27.002.
The case arose from a dispute over alleged criminal activity at a gas station owned by HPTY’s client, Murphy USA. The alleged criminal was arrested but later cleared of wrongdoing. He and his passenger sued Murphy USA and the gas station manager for detaining them and reporting them to law enforcement. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of Murphy USA’s motion to dismiss and held that the constitutional right to petition includes the right to report suspected criminal activity to the police. The case presented an issue of first impression in Texas.