LANDRY'S, INC. AND HOUSTON AQUARIUM, INC. v. ANIMAL LEGAL DEFENSE FUND, CARNEY ANNE NASSER, AND CHERYL CONLEY
Landry’s, Inc. and the Landry’s Houston Aquarium settled a widely-publicized five-year legal battle over allegedly defamatory statements that the Animal Legal Defense Fund, attorney Carney Anne Nasser, and activist Cheryl Conley made on social media and in press releases about the tiger habitat at Landry’s aquarium and why they were pursuing an Endangered Species Act case against Landry’s. Landry’s sued for defamation, and Defendants prevailed in a motion to dismiss, in part because the court affirmed longstanding Texas common law that attorney statements made in the course of legal proceedings are immune from defamation suits. However, the Texas Supreme Court reversed, holding that lawyer statements on social media and in press releases are not entitled to attorney immunity under the legal proceedings privilege and remanded the case for trial on the merits to determine whether Nasser made her statements with actual malice. The reversal of longstanding common law has significant implications for animal and environmental organizations and attorneys in Texas and beyond who regularly avail themselves of the media in the course of pursuing legal and legislative strategies. Rather than going to trial, the parties settled.
[To accompany State Case Law Update "Five-year Legal Battle Over Attorney Statements about Tigers Concludes with Significant Implications for Social Justice Attorneys" from Brooks Animal Law Digest Issue No. 109.]