Calif. Team Prevails in Defamation Appeal

Los Angeles Partners Jon Kardassakis, Deborah Sirias, and San Diego Appellate Practice Partner Jeffry A. Miller and Associate Jonna D. Lothyan recently persuaded the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles to affirm summary judgment and a cost award in a defamation suit brought by a theater production group against performers and their talent agencies.

A dispute arose when the performers, who were hired to shoot a promotional video for a cabaret show, refused to sign a release form that exceeded their agreement with the production company. The production company alleged that our client, a talent agent, made two defamatory statements that caused the dancers to refuse to sign the release.

The trial court granted summary judgment against the production company and awarded costs to our client. The production company appealed both the judgment and the court’s cost award.

On appeal, we argued that the alleged statements — the plaintiff did not treat talent fairly and was not someone to do business with — were nonactionable opinion. Further, we argued that the statements were truthful, subject to the common interest privilege, and lacked the requisite malice to overcome the privilege.

The Court of Appeal agreed, holding that both statements were based on subjective judgment and belief and that the trial court properly granted summary judgment.

We also convinced the court to affirm the cost award due to the plaintiff’s failure to provide a transcript of the costs hearing. We successfully argued that under the applicable abuse of discretion standard of review, the appellate court could not make a determination on appeal without evidence of the lower court’s exercise of discretion.

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