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The Texas “Anti-SLAPP law” was designed to allow for speedy dismissal of cases based on a defendant’s exercise of free speech or participation in civic affairs. However, it is extremely broad and has been used—some critics say misused—to allow dismissal of a wide range of suits. House Bill 2730 aims to limit the reach of the law and was just signed by the Governor.
The new law creates several new exemptions from the statute including suits arising from an officer-director, employee-employer, or independent contractor relationship that seek recovery for misappropriation of trade secrets or corporate opportunities or seek to enforce a non-disparagement agreement or a covenant not to compete. In addition to the current exemption for actions arising under the Insurance Code or an insurance contract, actions brought under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act-Consumer Protection Act (DTPA) will also be exempt. Other exemptions include proceedings involving the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure and common law fraud claims.
The amendment also modifies the definitions, tightening the meaning of “exercise of the right of association” which formerly meant a “communication between individuals” to “join[ing] together to collectively express, promote, pursue, or defend common interests relating to a governmental proceeding or a matter of public concern.”
Additionally, the definition of “matter of public concern” has been revised to include statements or activities concerning a public official or celebrity, a matter of political, social or other interest to the community, or “a subject of concern to the public,” deleting the current language which includes broad terms such as “health or safety, environmental, economic, or community well-being, the government, a public official, and a good, product, or service in the marketplace.”
The law takes effect Sept. 1,2019. The Anti-SLAPP law is codified in chapter 27 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code.