State Senator Larry Farnese says he’ll introduce legislation in Harrisburg making it easier for groups subject to intimidating SLAPP lawsuits to have the cases dismissed or recover legal costs after the fact. The announcement was made in reaction to the dissolution of Old City Civic Association. The group disbanded after it could no longer afford liability insurance because of mounting legal costs despite never losing a case or having to pay a settlement.
Read the full press release from Senator Farnese’s office below:
State Senator Larry Farnese to Introduce Legislation to
Protect Groups from Frivolous Lawsuits
PHILADELPHIA (May 16, 2013) – State Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Phila.) today announced that he is introducing legislation that will protect groups who are the subject of SLAPPs, or Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.
Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, or SLAPPs, are lawsuits filed against a person or group for positions they take in connection with a matter of public interest. Despite the legal theories supporting a lawsuit, the true purpose of a SLAPP is to deter critics by burdening them with the costs of a legal defense. Farnese’s legislation will allow those who are wrongfully sued to more easily dismiss a case or recover attorneys’ fees if they win the lawsuit.
“The legal system should protect free speech and not act as a hammer to silence people who speak their mind on important issues and neighborhood development,” said Farnese. “The work that is done by our civic groups is essential to every neighborhood and the possibility that we might start losing these important forums is bad for everyone.”
Farnese is proposing the legislation after spiraling insurance costs recently forced the Old City Civic Association to stop weighing in on zoning and liquor licensing matters and disband after 40 years of existence. Farnese added that he hopes his proposed restrictions on lawsuits will lead to more affordable insurance rates and was especially troubled because Old City had a thorough process for vetting issues before they weighed in publicly like many other groups in the district.
Twenty-seven states and the Territory of Guam have already passed anti-SLAPP legislation. In 2000, Pennsylvania passed limited anti-SLAPP legislation that applies only to environmental law and regulatory processes.