TX Case of First Impression Involves Fracking, Defamation Claims and Anti-SLAPP Law
The Texas Supreme Court heard arguments Dec. 4 in a case of the first impression pitting Fort Worth-based natural gas drilling company Range Resources Corp. and its subsidiary against fracking opponents.
The companies allege the fracking opponents defamed them through statements and release of a video to the media showing a hose spewing water that was on fire. The fracking opponents sought to have the Range Resources plaintiffs’ defamation claims dismissed based on the Texas Citizen’s Participation Act, also know Texas’ anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) statute.
Last year, the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth agreed in part with a trial court and dismissed some of the claims against some of the fracking opponents.
Steven Lipsky, one of the fracking opponents who still had claims pending against him after the Second Court of Appeals ruling, and the plaintiffs both filed petitions for writ of mandamus with the Texas Supreme Court in late 2013.
In their petition, the plaintiffs seek to overturn the Second Court of Appeals’ dismissals. They agree that the appeals court had “correctly defined the ‘prima facie’ standard” that the anti-SLAPP law sets a bar that claims must overcome. But the plaintiffs argue the appeals court “misapplied the standard in a way that allowed” the law “to be used for an abusive and prohibited purpose—to ‘stifle [a suit] brought legitimately under libel or slander laws.'”