Stuart Kane Represents Praner Design in anti-SLAPP Dispute

Stuart Kane LLP is pleased to announce its successful representation of Praner Design Associates, Inc. (“Praner”), an architecture and design firm based in Los Angeles, and performing design projects nationwide.

Stuart Kane successfully opposed an anti-SLAPP motion (a motion to strike a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”) in a lawsuit against the Via Marina Tahiti Homeowners Association (“VMT HOA”). In the still-pending lawsuit, Praner alleges breach of contract, fraud, and misappropriation of trade secrets against VMT HOA for Praner’s design work on a million-dollar-plus renovation of common areas.

Stuart Kane partner, Eve Brackmann, acted as the lead attorney for Praner. In the case, Praner asserts that VMT HOA refused to pay for design and consulting work based on a written contract.  In addition, Praner claims that VMT HOA intentionally deceived Praner, and misappropriated Praner’s designs.

The VMT HOA filed the anti-SLAPP motion claiming that its dealings with Praner were protected under the First Amendment, reasoning that the HOA’s acts were done in conjunction with governance of the community.  After full briefing and oral argument, the Los Angeles Superior Court denied the motion on analysis of the first prong of the anti-SLAPP statute, i.e., whether the activity was indeed Constitutionally protected.   The court issued a detailed, nine-page ruling, in which it explained that the HOA did not meet its burden of showing that any of the three causes of action arose from “protected activity,” since the “HOA did not explain how the alleged [acts were] committed ‘in connection with a public issue or an issue of public interest.’”  (Ital. original.)  The court further explained that the anti-SLAPP statute does not apply “merely because the alleged breach of contract was committed by the HOA (through the Board Members exercising their duties related to the HOA) and the contract (with a third-party) relates to the potential expenditure of funds for a hallway (common area) renovation.”

The court’s detailed analysis of this anti-SLAPP issue is significant because it provides helpful guidance for future litigants, particularly in disputes involving Homeowners Associations, in the emerging anti-SLAPP body of law.