Jon Schwalbach obtained a dismissal and fee award for a lawyer client in a malicious prosecution case. Jon’s client was sued by an opposing party after he failed to prevail at trial. The underlying lawsuit involved a year-long bitter dispute between two neighbors. Jon wrote and filed an anti-SLAPP motion, arguing that even though his client didn’t win at trial there was still probable cause to pursue the case to its end. Jon’s winning brief scrutinized the favorable facts from the voluminous evidence in the underlying case and characterized the lawsuit against his client as a retaliatory action meant to punish a legal adversary who was simply advocating for his client. The anti-SLAPP statute, Jon argued, was meant to prevent this very tactic.
Jon faced an uphill battle during oral argument. The judge’s tentative ruling was to deny the anti-SLAPP motion, believing there was enough evidence to support an inference of a malicious prosecution because Jon’s client lost at trial. Knowing the record in detail, Jon highlighted the favorable facts for his client from the underlying lawsuit to show there was probable cause to support his client’s decision to pursue the case through trial. The critical issue, he argued, wasn’t the outcome of the case, but the factual and legal basis to pursue the lawsuit. The judge agreed and reversed his tentative ruling. He also granted Jon’s client over $15,000 in prevailing party fees and costs under the anti-SLAPP statute.