Massachusetts Court: Letter To Insurance Company Alleging Inappropriate Touching By Doctor Not Protected By State’s Anti-SLAPP Statute

I’m not partial to cases from Massachusetts, because I always have to stop and look up how to spell Massachusetts.  But Kalter v. Wood, 2006 WL 2959514 (Mass.App.Ct. October 19, 2006) is too good to pass by merely because it was decided in a state I can’t spell.  I tried but was unsuccessful in linking to the case on the court’s website.

The defendant, Anita Wood, simultaneously filed complaints alleging inappropriate touching during treatment by Albert Kalter, a Braintree chiropractor who treated her in May 2004, with the Braintree police department, the Division of Professional Licensure and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.  Kalter sued Wood, seeking damages for alleged libel, intentional interference with advantageous business relationships and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  Wood filed a special motion to dismiss under the state’s anti-SLAPP law. 

SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.  Many states enacted these statutes after developers, corporations and others began filing defamation suits against folks who used the media or public forums to oppose their interests.  The Massachusetts law (here is a link to information about it) protects a defendant who petitions a government body.  It allows a defendant to dismiss a lawsuit if a court finds that the claims are based solely upon the defendant’s petitioning activity, statements made in connection with petitioning activity such as media interviews, or  "statements reasonably likely to encourage consideration or review of an issue" by a governmental authority.  The Appeals Court found that, while the letters to the police and state regulators were protected under the anti-SLAPP law, the letter to the insurance company was not.  The court said, over a strong dissent, that a complaint letter to Kalter’s insurer was neither a petition to a government body nor, by itself, likely to encourage government review of an issue, and affirmed the trial court’s denial of Wood’s motion to strike.

UPDATE: Thanks to attorney Robert Ambrogi, who, in the comment below, helped me find the link to the Kalter case.  Here it is.   Robert, one of who three blogs can be linked to here, is obviously more tech-savvy than I.

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