Facebook and Zuckerberg Prevail in Anti-SLAPP Case Involving Fabricated Contract and Emails
Argentieri v. Zuckerberg, et. al., Case No. A-147932 (Cal. App., Feb. 15, 2017) arises out of a separate federal suit filed against Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg by Paul Ceglia, alleging that Zuckerberg had contracted with him for the creation of Facebook and promised him money. The lawsuit was predicated upon an alleged contract produced by Ceglia, which Zuckerberg claimed was fraudulent. After the federal court ordered Ceglia to produce the original contract including its native electronic version as well as various emails purporting to support the contract, the court dismissed Ceglia’s case, determining that Ceglia had fabricated the contract and supporting emails.
Facebook and Zuckerberg then sued Ceglia’s lawyer Argentieri for malicious prosecution. The court dismissed that case but not before Facebook’s counsel issued a statement to the press that Argentieri and the other attorneys knew the case was fraudulent but pursued it anyway. Argentieri then filed the instant suit for defamation.
The trial court dismissed the suit under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, finding that Defendants’ actions were protected as free speech or petition activities and that Plaintiff had not shown he would have prevailed on merits. Plaintiff did not contest the free speech issue and instead appealed the decision that he would not have prevailed on the merits. The appellate court affirmed, finding that for a multitude of reasons, Defendants would have prevailed on the defamation claims.