Finally some good news and common sense from the Texas Supreme Court.
Here’s a summary:
The issue is whether Texas Citizens Participation Act, which exempts actions based on certain commercial speech, applies in this defamation case involving a customer’s statements complaining about a transaction gone wrong.
O’Connor sent Castleman a cease-and-desist letter demanding that Castleman erase and retract all online statements about O’Connor and his company, publish apologies that O’Connor found “satisfactory” and pay O’Connor $315,000. When Castleman refused, O’Connor sued him for defamation.
Castleman moved to dismiss the suit under the Citizens Participation Act, asserting that the action relates to and is in response to his exercise of his free-speech right. In response, O’Connor argued that the act does not apply because the action is not based on Castleman’s exercise of his free-speech right and, even if it were, the commercial-speech exemption applies.
The appeals court held that the exemption applies, so the Castleman could not seek expedited dismissal under the act.
The Supreme Court HOLDS Castleman was primarily engaged in the business of selling goods, his allegedly defamatory statements did not arise out of his sale of goods or services or his status as a seller of those goods and services. Castleman made the statements in his status as a customer or consumer of O’Connor’s services.
So now the case goes back down to the appellate court in Amarillo Texas for them to rule on the remaining issues.
One thing to note – the Texas Supreme Court mentioned the following:
“Castleman intended his statements to reach O’Connor’s actual or potential customers. His statements constituted protected speech warning those customers about the quality of O’Connor’s services, not pursuing business for himself.”
I like the words “protected speech” about as much as I do the First Amendment.
You can read the full decision below: