Sarver v. Chartier

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: 02-17-2016
  • Case #: 11-56986
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge O’Scannlain for the Court; Circuit Judges Paez and Ikuta
  • Full Text Opinion

Procedural state laws are not used in federal court if to do so would result in a direct collision with a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure.

Jeffrey Sarver, Army Sergeant and Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician, allowed Mark Boal to interview and write an article about him to be published in Playboy. The article detailed Sarver’s experiences in Iraq. Four years after the article was published, The Hurt Locker premiered. Sarver filed suit in the District Court of New Jersey against numerous defendants associated with the creation of the Oscar-winning film, including its screen writer, Mark Boal. Sarver asserted claims of false light, invasion of privacy, defamation, breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, and constructive fraud/negligent misrepresentation. Sarver insisted that the film’s main character was based on his experiences in Iraq as conveyed to Boal and used without his consent. After a venue transfer to California, the defendants made a motion to dismiss the complaint under California’s Anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (“anti-SLAPP”) law, which the district court granted. Sarver appealed alleging that transfer was improper and the anti-SLAPP claim was not timely as it was filed one year after the complaint. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal asserting that because California contacts predominate the case, California venue was proper. Additionally, the defendant’s motion was timely filed. Although California civil procedure dictates that an anti-SLAPP motion must be filed within sixty days of the complaint, the panel highlighted that “[p]rocedural state laws are not used in federal court if to do so would result in a direct collision with a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure.” Thus, applying the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the panel held the anti-SLAPP claim was timely filed. Regarding the merits of the anti-SLAPP claim, the panel determined that “storytellers and artists who take the raw materials of life—including the stories of real individuals, ordinary or extraordinary—and transform them into art” such as The Hurt Locker are protected against suits like Sarver’s by the First Amendment. AFFIRMED.

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