Blanchard v. Steward Carney Hospital, Inc.Annotate this Case
The Supreme Judicial Court took this opportunity to augment the framework set forth in Duracraft v. Holmes Products Corp., 427 Mass. 156 (1998), regarding anti-SLAPP suits. Plaintiffs, nine registered nurses who previously worked in a hospital's adolescent psychiatric unit, fired the hospital and its then-president, alleging defamation based on the president’s statements - both to hospital employees and to the Boston Globe - regarding the nurses’ culpability for the incidents that took place at the unit. Defendants filed a special motion to dismiss pursuant to the “anti-SLAPP statute,” Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 59H. The superior court denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the denial of Defendants’ special motion to dismiss as to the president’s statements to the Boston Globe and otherwise affirmed, holding that a portion of Plaintiffs’ defamation claim was based solely on Defendants’ petitioning activity. Therefore, Defendants satisfied in part their threshold burden under Duracraft. However, because the statute, as construed under current case law, remains at odds with legislative intent and raises constitutional concerns, the court broadened the construction of the statutory term “based on.” The court remanded the matter to the superior court where the burden will shift to Plaintiffs to make a showing adequate to defeat the special motion to dismiss.