DC Comics v. Pacific Pictures

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: 01-10-2013
  • Case #: 11-56934
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Reinhardt for the Court; Circuit Judge Thomas and District Judge Sedwick.
  • Full Text Opinion

An order denying a defendant’s motion to strike state law claims under California’s anti-SLAPP statute is immediately appealable because the statute grants immunity from suit, not merely a defense to liability.

DC Comics (“DC”) sued the heirs of the Superman creators (“Defendants”) for conduct arising out of a dispute over copyright termination rights. The district court denied Defendants’’ motion to strike DC’s state law claims of intentional interference and unfair competition under California’s anti-SLAPP statute. Defendants filed an interlocutory appeal, “asserting that this court has jurisdiction pursuant to the collateral order doctrine and [the court’s] decision in Batzel.” The Ninth Circuit reasoned that the denial of the motion satisfied the collateral order doctrine because (1) “an anti-SLAPP motion is conclusive as to whether the anti-SLAPP statute requires dismissal of the suit,” (2) “denial of [the] motion resolves a question separate from the merits, as it ‘merely finds that such merits may exist, without evaluating whether the plaintiff’s claim will succeed,’” and (3) “denial of an anti-SLAPP motion would ‘effectively be unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment.’” The Court explained that the denial of the motion was effectively unreviewable after final judgment because the anti-SLAPP statute granted immunity from suit, not merely a defense against liability. Thus, “unlike a defense against liability, an immunity from suit would be significantly imperiled if we did not permit an immediate appeal, in that it is ‘effectively lost if a case is erroneously permitted to go to trial.’” The Court also noted that the Supreme Court’s decision in Mohawk Industries did not undermine the importance of the distinction between suit immunity and liability defense. The Ninth Circuit held that it had jurisdiction over an interlocutory appeal from the denial of a motion to strike claims under California’s anti-SLAPP statute.

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