Loretta Gruber v. Sandra Gruber: Malicious Prosecution

Loretta Gruber v. Sandra Gruber (Malicious Prosecution / Anti-Slapp arising out of Marital Dissolution)

California Court of Appeal, Second District

Published Opinion (2020) 48 Cal.App.5th 529

File Date:

Daughter-in-law brought suit against former husband’s parents, asserting a malicious prosecution claim arising from allegations that parents sued her for promissory fraud in order to mischaracterize monetary gifts as loans in vengeance for her filing for divorce. Parents moved to dismiss under the Anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (Anti-SLAPP) statute. The Los Angeles County Superior Court denied the parents anti-SLAPP motion and parents appealed. 

The anti-SLAPP statute empowers a trial court to dismiss a claim if the claim (1) falls within the statute’s scope and (2) lacks “minimal merit” which is assessed by accepting the plaintiff’s evidence as true. Where, as here, there is a dispute over what facts the previously suing parties knew at the time they brought suit, a trial court faced with an anti-SLAPP motion by those parties must decide whether the malicious prosecution plaintiff has shown that her allegation that those parties lacked probable cause has “minimal merit.” The Court of Appeal for the Second District held that a trial court should do so by (1) resolving all factual disputes regarding what the previously suing parties knew by accepting the plaintiff’s (Daughter-in-law) evidence as true and (2) through that lens, evaluating whether the prior claim(s) were legally and factually tenable. 

“A claim has ‘minimal merit’ if it is ‘both legally sufficient and supported by a sufficient prima facie showing of facts to sustain a favorable judgment if the evidence submitted by the [non-moving party] is credited.’” The Court of Appeal concluded that Daughter-in-law proved that her malicious prosecution claim had minimal merit and that the trial court acted properly in denying the anti-SLAPP motions to dismiss that claim.

Opinion: Gruber v. Gruber 4-30-2020

The case listed here was not handled by Walzer Melcher unless the description states that Walzer Melcher appeared as counsel.