Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Anti-SLAPP Motion Denied In Suit Against Archdiocese Over Priest's Molestation of Children

In Ratcliff v. Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, (CA App., May 19, 2022), a California state appellate court affirmed the denial of an anti-SLAPP motion sought by the Los Angeles Archdiocese.  The court explained:

Seven adults allege they were molested by a priest when they were children. They brought suit against The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles and related entities ..., alleging defendants were vicariously liable for ratifying the molestation and directly liable for their own negligence in failing to supervise the priest, and related acts and omissions. The Archdiocese moved to strike the operative complaint under the anti-SLAPP law (Code Civ. Proc., § 425.16), arguing that some of the acts by which it purportedly ratified the molestation or acted negligently constituted speech or litigation conduct protected by the anti-SLAPP statute....

The court concluded however that:

The Archdiocese, both in its anti-SLAPP motion before the trial court, and in its briefing on appeal, goes to great lengths to overlook the actual allegations of ratification, namely the acts of failing to investigate and supervise (and, instead, transferring to different parishes)... 

The four purported negligence claims identified by the Archdiocese have one key factor in common: they are all based on a decision not to speak, not speech itself.... We conclude the failure to speak alleged as a basis for liability here is not conduct in furtherance of the right of free speech.