Indiana’s anti-SLAPP law protects acts in furtherance of the right of petition or free speech under the U.S. or Indiana constitutions “in connection with a public issue” and “taken in good faith and with a reasonable basis in law and fact.” Ind. Code Ann. § 34-7-7-5(1)-(2). The action that is the subject of the complaint must also be “lawful,” meaning that speech constituting defamation, extortion, or any other unlawful act will fall outside the protection of the statute. § 34-7-7-9(d).
Although the statute does not define the right of petition or free speech in connection with a public issue, Indiana courts have interpreted it to include media coverage of newsworthy events, including a newspaper’s coverage of a town council, Poulard v. Lauth, 793 N.E.2d 1120 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003); a newspaper’s publication of a town attorney’s statements about another attorney, Shepard v. Schurz Commc’ns, Inc., 847 N.E.2d 219 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006); and a television station’s investigative report about the safety and legality of pharmaceuticals, CanaRx Servs., Inc. v. LIN Television Corp., No. 1:07-cv-1482, 2008 WL 2266348 (S.D. Ind. May 29, 2008).
The Indiana anti-SLAPP law allows a defendant to file a motion to dismiss the complaint, which the court will hear and decide within 180 days. Ind. Code § 34-7-7-9(a). Discovery activities irrelevant to the motion are placed on hold once the motion is filed. § 34-7-7-6.
Under the statute, the defendant must specify the public issue that prompted his or her speech or petition activity. § 34-7-7-9(b). If the defendant can show by a preponderance of the evidence that the act on which the SLAPP suit is based is a lawful one in furtherance of the constitutional rights of free speech or petition, the court will grant the motion. § 34-7-7-9(d). In making this determination, the judge will consider the plaintiff’s complaint, the SLAPP defendant’s motion to dismiss, and any sworn statements containing facts on which the assertions in those documents are based. § 34-7-7-9(c).
A SLAPP defendant who prevails on the motion to dismiss is entitled to recover costs and attorney’s fees. § 34-7-7-7. Conversely, the defendant must pay the plaintiff’s costs and attorney’s fees if the court finds that the motion to dismiss was frivolous or brought solely to delay the proceedings. § 34-7-7-8.