Nonsuit Does Not Negate TCPA Motion to Dismiss

The Texas Citizens’ Participation Act continues to be a powerful tool in certain types of commercial cases. In this instance, the publisher of Petroleum News Bakken managed to obtain and affirm a judgment of dismissal and attorney fees in a business disparagement and tortious interference case. The dispute arose out of a newspaper article that stated no records could be found for wells that Breitling Oil & Gas claimed to have drilled in North Dakota. The publisher moved to dismiss under the TCPA, which shifted the burden to the burden to the plaintiff to come forward with prima facie evidence of each element of its claims. Breitling responded with a notice of nonsuit, but that didn’t stop the trial court from moving forward with the hearing and awarding the defendant $88,444.58 in attorney fees and expenses. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the nonsuit did not moot the pending motion to dismiss because the defendant had already made a “pending claim for affirmative relief” through its request for attorney fees and sanctions. The Court also rejected Breitling’s argument that the attorney fees should have been tried to a jury, noting that the record did not show that Breitling ever objected to the trial court making findings on the reasonableness of the fees awarded.

Breitling Oil & Gas Corp. v. Petroleum Newspapers of Alaska, LLC, No. 05-14-00299-CV

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