If a person gets riled up enough about a Facebook post to file a defamation case about it in a Texas court, they are bound to run up against a defense lawyer who’s more than willing to knock their claim using the state’s anti-SLAPP statute.
And if the plaintiff’s defamation case happens to involve cows or white tigers, that defense lawyer is probably going to be Adam Milasincic.
For the second time this year, Milasincic has used the Texas Citizen’s Participation Act to convince a state district judge to dismiss a defamation suit filed against his client after they spoke out about an animal rights issue.
Also known as the Texas anti-SLAPP statue, the law allows trial courts to dismiss defamation suits filed against defendants who speak out on matters of public concern and also recover their attorney’s fees in the process.
In February, Milasincic, an associate at Houston’s AZA Law, used the law to convince a Harris County district court judge to dismiss a defamation case filed against an animal rights group that was sued by a corporation after complaining about the treatment of four endangered white tigers — winning $624,000 in attorneys fees and court costs.
And on July 26, Milasincic used it again to convince visiting state District Judge John Wooldridge to dismiss a defamation claim against Dr. Sujatha Ramakrishna, a child psychiatrist in Dallas and animal rights advocate. Ramakrishna was sued by the owners of Rowdy Girl Sanctuary, a former cattle ranch turned animal sanctuary run by vegans, who sought $1 million in defamation damages over a single Facebook post in which Ramakrishna criticized their aggressive fundraising. Rowdy Girl was ordered to pay nearly $60,000 in attorney fees and sanctions instead.
“I never thought I would specialize in animal anti-SLAPP cases, but you never know what life brings,” Milasincic said. “We do a lot of anti-SLAPP cases; the last two happened to be about animals.”
Anuj A. Shah, a Houston practitioner who represents Rowdy Girl Sanctuary, did not return a call for comment.
But whether the fight involves animal rights or not, Milasincic said it’s never a good idea to take a dispute over a Facebook post into a Texas courtroom because of the state’s anti-SLAPP statute.
“This case is a good warning to anybody who gets irritated by posts on Facebook. You have three ways to respond to it,” Milasincic said. “The first is just to ignore it and turn the other cheek. The second would be either to put your own facts out there or if it’s constructive criticism, learn something from it. And the final option is to overreach, file a lawsuit for six figures and have it dismissed.”