Topic: Homeowners Association Law
(Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute is Code of Civil Procedure Section 425.16. When the SLAPP statute was first enacted in 1992, twenty four years ago, some people, believed that it would not apply to homeowners associations because the SLAPP statute deals with freedom of speech which generally protects against governmental action and not private action. Since homeowners associations are private entities or private clubs, some people believed that the SLAPP statute would not apply to such entities because there was no governmental action. However, the California courts have held in several cases that the SLAPP statute does apply to homeowners associations based on the theory that a homeowners association is a “mini-city.” Damon v. Ocean Hills Journalism Club (2000) 85 Cal. App. 4th 468. But what about a 2-unit condominium? How is that a “mini-city?” In any event, the lesson here is that in any homeowner association litigation, you have to give some thought to the applicability of the SLAPP statute.
In 2011, I prevailed in a case involving a SLAPP statute in a homeowners association matter that resulted in a published decision of the Court of Appeal. The case name is Cabrera v. Alam (2011) 197 Cal. App. 4th 1077. In this case, at the annual meeting for the election of the board of directors for the next year, Ms. Cabrera, the former President, appeared and stated that Mr. Alam, the current President and his current board had been mismanaging association money. In response to this comment, Mr. Alam stated to Ms. Cabrera that not only had he and his board not mismanaged any association money, but that when Ms. Cabrera was President ofthe association she mismanaged association money. Mr. Alam, not content to leave it at that, then produced written evidence showing that Ms. Cabrera mismanaged association money when she was President. 3-in-1 copier, scanner and fax – $50 rebate. Following this meeting, Ms. Cabrera sued Mr. Alam and the association for defamation a nd other torts.
The trial court denied my motion to dismiss the complaint based on the SLAPP statute. However, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court and ordered that the complaint be dismissed and I was awarded reasonable attorney’s fees for the representation of Mr. Alam and the Association. Since Cabrera was decided, I have had to tell several prospective clients who wanted to sue the association or President for defamation that they have no case.