Cross Nadel LLC attorney Heidi A. Nadel quoted by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly about ruling that a law firm's counterclaims in a legal malpratice case were SLAPP actions.
The Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly today in its article, "Firm’s counterclaims in legal-mal case deemed SLAPP actions" quoted Cross Nadel LLC attorney Heidi A. Nadel about Superior Court judge Douglas H. Wilkins' March 27, 2017 decision in Carr v. Cesari and McKenna that a law firm's counterclaims in a malpractice suit were SLAPP actions under the Massachusetts anti-SLAPP statute.
Carr sued the law firm that he alleged jointly represented him and his company on intellectual property matters based on claims that the firm acted against his interests, resulting in him being squeezed out of management of the company and losing the intellectual property rights to one of his inventions. The law firm counterclaimed, denying that Carr was ever a client, and in the alternative that if he was a client, he breached a contract to pay their fees. The firm also countersued for fraud and misrepresentation. Judge Wilkins ruled that these counterclaims were SLAPP actions because they were based solely on Carr’s filing of the malpractice suit.
The Court ruled that other counterclaims for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and quantum meruit/unjust enrichment were not SLAPP claims.
As the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly reported, "Heidi A. Nadel, a civil litigator in Quincy who has handled a number of cases involving the anti-SLAPP law, called the decision 'thoughtful' in that Wilkins tried to get to the essence of the defendants’ counterclaims, but she wondered whether the judge might be adjudicating too much at such an early stage."
The article continued, "Appellate courts have said that, for the purposes of an anti-SLAPP analysis, what is alleged in the purported SLAPP action is what matters, not the actual merits of that claim, she explained."
“'Judge Wilkins at times goes beyond and behind what’s alleged and seems to combine a quasi-12(b)(6) or summary judgment analysis with the anti-SLAPP analysis,' she said. 'Judge Wilkins may be right that those claims [that he dismissed under §59H] were not based on anything ‘substantial’ or that they were ‘retaliatory,’ but his conclusion that they were, therefore, SLAPP claims because they were within a ‘document’ that seeks to ‘punish’ Mr. Carr for his petitioning activities does not necessarily follow.'"