Oregon Case Law Update: Ninth Circuit Scraps Lawsuit against Rape Accuser under Oregon’s anti-SLAPP Law

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Ninth Circuit Scraps Lawsuit against Rape Accuser under Oregon’s anti-SLAPP Law

From the desk of Josh Hayward: Several years ago, Oregon enacted a law that allows defendants to quickly dispose of meritless libel or defamation lawsuits when the lawsuits are based on the defendant’s legitimate exercise of their First Amendment rights.  Several states have enacted this type of anti-SLAPP (“Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation”) law. The classic example of an appropriate use of the anti-SLAPP law is where a plaintiff sues for libel based on the defendant’s protected statements to a newspaper.  However, the law can also apply in a number of other contexts, including preventing a retaliatory lawsuit based on rape allegations.

Claims Pointer: In this case arising out of an alleged rape, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that because the plaintiff had failed to proffer any evidence demonstrating that the defendant made non-protected statements that damaged plaintiff’s professional reputation, the defendant’s anti-SLAPP motion to strike should have been granted.  The case demonstrates how courts will analyze the evidence presented in an anti-SLAPP motion, an important consideration when evaluating whether to pursue a motion to strike.

Schwern v. Plunkett, 14-35576, 2017 WL 164323 (9th Cir Jan. 17, 2017)

Noirin Plunkett (“Plunkett”) and Michael Schwern (“Schwern”), two open-source software developers, were married in November 2011 and lived together in Portland, Oregon.  The marriage did not work out, and on the night the couple filed for divorce on September 19, 2013, they met for one final dinner at the home they once shared.  Schwern claims that they then had consensual sex, but Plunkett claimed that he violently raped her.  She went to the emergency room where she had a forensic examination, her injuries were photographed, and the police were called.  Police arrested Schwern that night on charges of strangulation and...

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