What is a SLAPP?

Barbie SLAPP

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SLAPP is not misspelled. S.L.A.P.P. is an acronym for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. A company using a SLAPP should be slapped with sanctions. 

A SLAPP suit is typically a lawsuit by a large company to silence individuals or small groups that protest actions by a company. Their main strategy is to intimidate the opposition by spending lots of money on teams of lawyers. Here is a list of the usual claims brought in a SLAPP action:

  • Defamation. Broadly defined, this is an alleged intentional false communication, which is either published in a written form (libel) or publicly spoken (slander), that injures one's reputation.

  • Invasion of Privacy. This refers to the unlawful use or exploitation of one's personality, the publicizing of one's private affairs with which the public has no legitimate concern, or the wrongful intrusion into one's private activities.

  • Malicious Prosecution or Abuse of Process. A "malicious prosecution" is a criminal or civil lawsuit which is begun with knowledge that the case lacks merit, and which is brought for a reason (e.g., to harass or annoy) other than to seek a judicial determination of the claim. The use of the legal process to intimidate or to punish the person against whom the suit is brought is generally referred to as "abuse of process."  In the case Mattel brought against me, it was continued only to extort my silence.

  • Conspiracy. A conspiracy is an alleged agreement between two or more persons to commit an illegal, unlawful, or wrongful act. 

  • Intentional interference with an advantageous relationship.  This is based on the alleged commission of an act with the intent to interfere with or violate a contract between two people, or hinder a business relationship which exists between those persons 

  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress. This is based on an alleged commission of some outrageous act with the intent and knowledge that the act will result in severe mental or emotional anguish of another.

  • Injunction. This is a procedure a party goes to court to seeks a temporary restraining order or an injunction against First Amendment activity Usually, the large company makes claims of libel or intentional interference. At best the claims are questionable, but are brought with the intent of intimidating threats of large legal bills. A party can go into a court with minimal notice and try to have an injunction granted on an emergency basis.

  • Trademark violation. This is based on an alleged improper use of a company's trademarked name or product name.  Many courts have ruled that trademark cannot be used to silence criticism. Mattel was told this in the Barbie Girl case.

  • Copyright violation. This is making improper use of copyrighted materials (image, writings, software, etc.). 

My case is a little bit unusual. By Mattel using a SLAPP action against my complaints of ADA, FMLA, MGL c.151B violations, their SLAPP turned into retaliation which is prohibited under those statutes.


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