Cuba v. Pylant, No. 15-10212 (5th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
These two consolidated appeals stem from suits between Donald Cuba and Julia Pylant where Julia accused Cuba of rape and Cuba was later acquitted of the charge. In No. 15-10212, Cuba sued Julia and her parents (collectively “the Pylants”) for malicious prosecution, defamation, and tortious interference with contractual relations. In No. 15-10213, Julia sued Cuba for assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”), and Cuba counterclaimed with causes of action substantially identical to those in his suit. The Pylants moved, in both suits, to dismiss Cuba's claims under the Texas Citizens' Participation Act (Texas's anti-SLAPP statute), Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. 27.004. The district court eventually held that the TCPA motions were moot because they had already been denied by operation of law. The court agreed with the Pylants that, under the TCPA framework, the 30-day deadline before a motion is deemed denied by operation of law runs only from the date of the hearing on the motion. But, because no such hearing was held in these cases, the TCPA motion was not denied by operation of law. In this case, the appeals are timely where the operative date from which the 30-day clock under Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure ran was March 6, 2015, the date of the order denying the motion. On the merits, the court concluded that the TCPA applies in this case where, as Cuba concedes, all of the acts that the Pylants are being sued for are exercises of the right to petition as defined under the statute. The court further concluded that Cuba's claims of malicious prosecution and defamation are pleaded in sufficient detail. However, as to the defamation claim, the Pylants have established an affirmative defense as to certain of the communications at issue. Finally, Cuba’s tortious interference claim does not survive the motion to dismiss. Accordingly, the court vacated the orders from which these interlocutory appeals are taken, and remanded for further proceedings.