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Newport Harbor Ventures, LLC v. Morris Cerullo World Evangelism

Filed 3/22/18 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA NEWPORT HARBOR VENTURES, ) LLC, et al., ) ) Plaintiffs and Respondents, ) ) S239777 v. ) ) Ct.App. 4/3 G052660 MORRIS CERULLO WORLD ) EVANGELISM et al., ) ) Orange County Defendants and Appellants. ) Super. Ct. No. 30-2013-00665314 ____________________________________) Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (§ 425.16), California’s so-called anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute, is intended to resolve quickly and relatively inexpensively meritless lawsuits that threaten free speech on matters of public interest. When it applies, section 425.16 permits a defendant to file a special motion to strike a cause of action (sometimes referred to as an anti-SLAPP motion) “within 60 days of the service of the complaint or, in the court’s discretion, at any later time upon terms it deems proper.” (§ 425.16, subd. (f).) Here, defendants filed the special motion within 60 days of the third amended complaint, but not within 60 days of any earlier complaint. The third amended complaint contains some of the same causes of action as earlier complaints. We granted review to decide whether a special motion to strike an amended complaint may seek dismissal of causes of action that had been included in the earlier complaints. 1 Because the anti-SLAPP statute is designed to resolve these lawsuits early, but not to permit the abuse that delayed motions to strike might entail, we conclude, as did the Court of Appeal, that, subject to the trial court’s discretion under section 425.16, subdivision (f), to permit late filing, a defendant must move to strike a cause of action within 60 days of service of the earliest complaint that contains that cause of action. I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY We take this procedural history primarily from the Court of Appeal’s opinion. (Newport Harbor Ventures, LLC v. Morris Cerullo World Evangelism (2016) 6 Cal.App.5th 1207, 1211-1215 (Newport Harbor).) Plaintiffs Newport Harbor Ventures, LLC, and Vertical Media Group, Inc., sued defendants Morris Cerullo World Evangelism and Roger Artz for damages based on events involving a ground sublease of real property in Newport Beach. Among other allegations, plaintiffs alleged that defendants fraudulently settled an unlawful detainer action involving the property. The first and subsequent complaints alleged multiple causes of action, including breach of written contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith. Plaintiffs eventually filed a third amended complaint. That complaint also alleged that defendants fraudulently settled the unlawful detainer action. It contained the causes of action for breach of written contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith contained in the original complaint and added, for the first time, causes of action for quantum meruit and promissory estoppel. Within 60 days of the filing of the third amended complaint, defendants moved to strike that complaint under section 425.16. They argued that settlement of the unlawful detainer action was an act arising from the right to petition and therefore is protected under the anti-SLAPP statute. Plaintiffs argued the motion was untimely because it was not brought …
Original document
Source: California Supreme Court