BOSTON — A lawsuit filed against bloggers Cherri Foytlin and
Karen Savage for their 2013 story on the Deepwater Horizon oil
disaster has been dismissed.
According to a report
by Courthouse News Service, Foytlin and Savage wrote an article in
the Huffington Post’s Green Blog in October 2013 at a time when oil
company BP Global was in federal court fighting to limit liability
for the oil spill. The article by Foytlin and Savage discussed the
issue and put some blame on one of BP’s consultants.
Cardno ChemRisk claimed the writers reported damaging information
in their article. The bloggers asked for dismissal of the lawsuit
because of the Massachusetts anti-SLAAP (Strategic Lawsuit Against
Public Participation) law.
“In some states like Louisiana and Massachusetts, there are
statues that protect certain kinds of free speech,” John Reichman,
attorney for the defendants, told the Louisiana Record.
“There’s a history of developers and others suing people who have
opposed their projects [for example]. What the [statute] is designed
to do is to protect people who will speak out about projects or other
important public issues so that if they’re sued for defamation, the
statute allows for an early determination whether there is a
reasonable basis for what they’ve said or written.”
The Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts ruled
that he writers were doing protected activity of petitioning and
voicing the concerns of many.
“They were speaking out about an issue of public concern and
interest, and that they had a reasonable basis for the statements
that they were making,” Reichman said. “Given those two things,
they came within the protection of the statute.”
The court ruled
that the facts that Foytlin and Savage presented in their article had
reasonable basis, which is not illegal to do.
This case is considered
by many as a win for journalists, bloggers and other media outlets.
In states that have anti-SLAPP law protection, writers are free to
discuss and inform the public on important issues that affect their
lives, without worrying about corporations trying to silence their
“Prior to this case, the courts of Massachusetts had read the
statute narrowly with respect to who the statutes were going to
protect,” Reichman said. “This case is important because it made
it clear that it protects persons like [Foytlin] and [Savage] who are
advocating a particular position either in articles, blogs, or
newspaper articles alike.”
Reichman had represented a journalist several years prior to this
case, in New York, involving an anti-SLAPP lawsuit. His client had
spoken out about a developer’s plans in the city and was sued for
defamation. Reichman ultimately won that case, as well.