Wednesday, April 9, 2014
C.A. Upholds Dismissal of Suit Over News Coverage
Man Labeled ‘Delusional’ by Sheryl Crow and by Psychiatrist Loses in Anti-SLAPP Ruling
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit by a man who claims he was libeled in news accounts of a lawsuit charging him with stalking Sheryl Crow and Harvey Weinstein.
Div. Two ruled that the action by Phillip Gordon Sparks against Yahoo! Inc. was correctly stricken under the anti-SLAPP statute.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Hahn granted award-winning singer Crow and film executive Weinstein a restraining order in 2012, following an hour-long hearing. Crow had previously obtained a temporary order against Sparks, saying notes he had sent her were “delusional, rambling, filled with profanity and laced with angry rants.”
Hahn heard testimony that Sparks had accused Crow of stealing from him, breaking into his house, and filming him. A psychiatrist testified that Sparks was “unambiguously delusional” and “imminently dangerous” to the plaintiffs.
The Associated Press reported on the hearing, and its account formed the basis of coverage on numerous websites, including music.yahoo.com and Yahoo! News India. The coverage on the Yahoo sites became the subject of a complaint by Sparks, who said he was defamed by the descriptions of him in the reported testimony.
Superior Court Judge Allan Goodman granted Yahoo’s anti-SLAPP motion, finding that the claim arose from protected conduct and that Sparks had offered no explanation as to how he could possibly prevail.
Justice Judith Ashmann-Gerst, in an unpublished opinion for the Court of Appeal, said Sparks “did not meet his burden on appeal,” and appeared to be intent on relitigating the restraining order proceeding rather than explaining how Yahoo’s news reporting defamed him.
In any event, the justice said, it was clear that the anti-SLAPP statute applies to news reporting, “the quintessential example” of protected activity, and that Sparks made no showing as to how he could possibly prevail on his defamation claim.
“While Sparks asserts that Yahoo deliberately ‘left out . . . key elements’ of the ‘Court Report,’ ‘to purposely make a false impression to the public . . . that . . . Sparks is guilty of emotional mental problems, negative traits and a dangerous ambiguously dangerous stalker,’ he offers no evidence or case citations in support of this assertion,” Ashmann-Gerst wrote.
Sparks represented himself on appeal. Dennis L. Wilson and Christopher T. Varas of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton represented Yahoo.
The case is Sparks v. Yahoo! Inc., B250555.
Copyright 2014, Metropolitan News Company