Rusty Hardin & Associates trial lawyer Ryan Higgins was quoted by Law360 on his court win for a client who was wrongfully sued for defamation over her Facebook posts criticizing a consumer product.
Not only did Mr. Higgins successfully defend his client, the judge was convinced to slap the plaintiff with more than $250,000 in sanctions and attorneys' fees under a Texas free speech law. The case was described in an article headlined “FasciaBlaster Inventor Sanctioned In Failed Defamation Suit” (subscription required).
“With this particular statute, what we brought it for is exactly what it was intended for,” Mr. Higgins told Law360. “Which is to prevent a large company from silencing someone talking about their products … it’s a great statute for someone who’s being bullied by a large corporation.”
The lawsuit was filed by the inventor of FasciaBlaster, a massage stick marketed as a product that can reduce cellulite and improve flexibility and circulation. The suit claimed “outrageous, defamatory, disparaging and unsubstantiated allegations” made by Karen Wallace, owner of a bikini waxing business, after she posted complaints about the tool, alleging it caused her to gain weight, loosened her skin and even contributed to her having miscarriages.
Mr. Higgins won a motion to dismiss the lawsuit under the Texas Citizens Participation Act, a law intended to curb strategic lawsuits against public participation, also called an anti-SLAPP law. He argued that Ms. Wallace's Facebook posts were a warning to the public and are protected free speech under the anti-SLAPP law.
Harris County State District Judge Steven Kirkland ordered the plaintiff to pay Ms. Wallace's legal fees, plus sanctions, which are required under the Texas Citizens Participation Act.
The case is ADB Interests LLC et al. v. Karen Wallace et al., Case No. 2017-35441, in the 334th District Court in Harris County, Texas.