Maryland Court of Special Appeals Affirms Dismissal of SLAPP Suit
December 22, 2021
In a precedent-setting decision, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a SLAPP suit brought by a real estate developer against several residents and their community groups, who had opposed changes in a planned unit development located in Baltimore. The decision, MCB Woodberry Developer, LLC v. The Council of Unit Owners of the Millrace Condominium, Inc., et al., No. 1187, September Term 2020 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Dec. 16, 2021), construed and applied a statute (Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-807) to protect the First Amendment rights of the Defendants to express their positions and to participate in governmental proceedings that affected matters of public concern. The statute immunized such activity and it barred retaliatory litigation tactics, known as strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPP actions for short. The Court ruled that the developer’s suit met the statutory criteria for dismissal because the timing of the action – coupled with the monstrous compensatory and punitive damage claims, intrusive and oppressive discovery, and conclusory and unsubstantiated allegations – demonstrated the developer’s bad faith in commencing a suit that was expressly designed to silence opposition to its development.
Michael Burgoyne, managing partner of the Baltimore office, and Louis Long, chair of the firm’s Appellate Practice Group and resident in the Pittsburgh office, collaborated in the successful representation of two residents and their homeowners association.