Litigation Privilege Applies to Slander of Title, but not Claims for Quiet Title
Weeden v. Hoffman (2021) 70 Cal.App.5th 269
In Weeden, there was a dispute over a home that had been the subject of prior divorce proceedings. The husband in the divorce, who was the Defendant in the case, and one of the former owners, recorded an abstract of judgement that inaccurately stated that he had obtained a monetary judgement of $699,000 in the divorce action. The Defendant claimed the judgement gave him a judgement lien against the home. He threatened to enforce the alleged lien against the new purchasers of the home, who were the Plaintiffs. The Plaintiffs sued, asserting causes of action for slander of title, quiet title, and cancellation of an instrument.
The trial court granted an anti-SLAPP motion, holding that all three claims arose from the recordation of the abstract of judgment, and that all three were absolutely barred by the litigation privilege. The Court of Appeal affirmed as to the slander of title claim, but reversed as to the claims for quiet title and cancellation of instrument. The Court explained that the litigation privilege bars claims that seek to impose tort damages based on litigation related conduct, but that the privilege does not apply to non-tort remedies arising in equity or under contract. The cause of action to quiet title is equitable, and does not seek to impose liability. Instead, it seeks to declare the rights of the parties to real estate. The same is true of the cause of action to quiet title, which is equitable, and seeks to cancel an instrument creating a cloud on title, rather than imposing damages. Since these were both non-tort causes of action that did not seek to impose liability for protected litigation activity, they were not barred by the litigation privilege.
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