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Neumann v. Liles

Court of Appeals of Oregon

March 12, 2014

CAROL C. NEUMANN and DANCING DEER MOUNTAIN, LLC, an Oregon domestic limited liability company, Plaintiffs-Appellants Cross-Respondents,
v.
CHRISTOPHER LILES, Defendant-Respondent Cross-Appellant

Argued and Submitted: April 12, 2013.

Page 522

Lane County Circuit Court. 121103711. Charles D. Carlson, Judge.

Steve C. Baldwin argued the cause for appellants-cross-respondents. With him on the briefs was Watkinson Laird Rubenstein Baldwin & Burgess, P.C.

Linda K. Williams argued the cause and filed the briefs for respondent-cross-appellant.

Before Armstrong, Presiding Judge, and Nakamoto, Judge, and Lagesen, Judge.[*]

OPINION

Page 523

[261 Or.App. 569] LAGESEN, J.

After attending a wedding at plaintiff Dancing Deer Mountain, LLC, a wedding venue co-owned and operated by plaintiff Carol Neumann and her husband, Timothy Benton, defendant Christopher Liles posted a negative review on google.com. In the review, defendant characterized the venue as a " disaster" and Neumann as " two faced, crooked, and * * * rude to multiple guest[s]." He stated further that Neumann and her husband " changed the rules as they saw fit" by informing guests that they needed to leave the premises earlier than they had originally been told, and that Neumann would find a way to retain any security deposit and charge even more money for use of the facility. Neumann and Dancing Deer Mountain sued defendant, with Neumann asserting claims for defamation and invasion of

Page 524

privacy by false light, and Dancing Deer Mountain asserting claims for intentional interference with economic relations and invasion of privacy by false light. On defendant's motion, the trial court dismissed the case under ORS 31.150,[1] Oregon's anti-Strategic Lawsuits against Public [261 Or.App. 570] Participation (anti-SLAPP) statute, concluding both that plaintiffs' claims fell within the scope of ORS 31.150(2), making them subject to the anti-SLAPP procedures, and that plaintiffs failed to establish a prima facie case in support of any of their claims, as required by ORS 31.150(3). We reverse, concluding that the trial court erred when it determined that Neumann had not established a prima facie case in support of her defamation claim.

I. BACKGROUND [2]

Defendant attended a wedding at Dancing Deer Mountain. During the event, tensions arose between Dancing Deer Mountain staff, including Neumann, and the wedding party and guests, after staff observed attendees consuming alcohol in a manner that violated Dancing Deer Mountain's alcohol policy. Those tensions were exacerbated when, at approximately 8:30 p.m. on the night of the wedding, Neumann and her staff began asking guests to leave, in accordance with Dancing Deer Mountain's requirement, contained in its rental agreement, that the wedding party and guests vacate the premises by 8:30 p.m.

[261 Or.App. 571] Two days after the wedding, defendant posted a review of Dancing Deer Mountain on google.com. The review, which was entitled " Disaster!!!!! Find ...


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