Denial of Anti-SLAPP Motion Affirmed in Suit Against Celebrity Jewelery by Bakery Lambasted on Instagram
By a MetNews Staff Writer
“This case is about a birthday cake,” Court of Appeal Justice John Shepard Wiley Jr. announced at the outset of an opinion, filed Friday, affirming the denial of an anti-SLAPP motion in an action against a “jeweler to the stars,” with 1.5 million followers on Instagram, who used that platform to blast a bakery that delivered a cake for his son’s seventh birthday celebration adorned with confections that looked like pills.
The opinion for this district’s Div. Eight affirms an order by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John J. Kralik denying a special motion to strike, pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure §425.16, filed by defendant Ben “the Baller” Yang. Kralik’s order kept alive an action by Woodhill Ventures, LLC, doing business as Big Sugar Bakeshop. In addition to denigrating the Studio City bakery on Instagram, in nine messages laced with foul language, Yang bad-mouthed it on his podcast.
Above is a photo of a cake delivered to a home, with the bakery apparently unaware that it was for a child’s party. What appear to be pills are icing. The Court of Appeal for this district held on Friday that an anti-SLAPP motion did not lie in action against the birthday boy’s father who lambasted the bakery on social media.
As Yang tells it, the cake arrived; he ahd his wife found it inapproipriate for a child’s party; he phonerd the bakery to complain and encountered insoucience. The bakery’s version is that it was not imparted that the cake was for a child’s party and that when Yang phoned to complain, he uttered threats and was profane.
The complaint alleges that it received threats from Yang’s followers after the postings. Woodhill sued for libel, slander, and unfair competition.
In asking Kralik to axe the lawsuit as a SLAPP, Yang argued that there is public interest in “candy confusion”—children eating pills they mistake for candy; in his day-to-day life in light of his celebrity status; and in the plaintiff as a nationally recogniized outfit that has bad service and presented a cake that created a danger to children.
The judge found a lack of public interest, and accordingly, that Yang’s comments were not protected. If they were protected, satisfying the first prong of §425.16, he said, Yang had not met his burdfen under the second prong by showing a probability of prevailing on the merits.
He said Yang’s remarks did not promote a public discuission of “candy confusion,” remarking:
“Yang’s statements did not seek public discussion of anything. They aimed to whip up a crowd for vengeful retribution.”
He went on to say:
“Yang incorrectly suggests his celebrity status means everything he says is of public interest. This is not so….Even people of great renown are capable of banalities, as are we all.
“Nor can Yang rely on the fact he published his statements to many people….Shouting makes the volume loud. It does not make the content worthy.”
“Mere mentions in national publications do not make Big Sugar a business in the public eye. Despite its name, Big Sugar is a small business. It has two shops in Los Angeles. That is all.
“Yang’s and Big Sugar’s supposed proximities to fame do not turn this into a case of public interest.”
Wiley rejected Yang’s contehtion that his comments came under the category of consumer protection, declaring:
“Yang’s statements relate only to one transaction with Big Sugar. He published them on his social media accounts to air his dissatisfaction with a particular cake. His statements were not part of a larger discussion….
“Yang is complaining about a cake order. He did not like the cake and he did not like the service. Those are not issues of public interest.”
The case is Woodhill Ventures, LLC v. Yang, B305797.
James A. Bryant of The Cochran Firm, located in the Mid-Wilshire area, was Yang’s lawyer on appeal. Robert Odson and Benjamin P. Sosnick of the downtown Los Angeles firm of Shumener, Odson & Oh represented Woodhill.
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