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Boyd v. Law

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  1. Libel and Privacy

Court: Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Middle Division of Nashville

Date Filed: March 18, 2021

Background: After an unpleasant exchange with an attorney at their bank, bank tellers in Tennessee posted negative reviews on the Google business page of the attorney’s law firm. The attorney, Brian Boyd, filed suit the next day for defamation, among other things.

The bank tellers then sought to dismiss the lawsuit under the Tennessee Public Participation Act, an anti-SLAPP law strengthened by the state legislature in 2019 to protect speech on matters of public concern. However, a trial court denied the tellers’ petition to dismiss, holding that their speech was not a matter of public concern under the TPPA.

The bank tellers then appealed to the Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Middle Division of Nashville. The case is the Tennessee Court of Appeals’ first opportunity to decide whether the new anti-SLAPP law applies.

Our Position: The appeals court should reverse the trial court’s denial of the tellers’ TPPA petition.

  • The TPPA is intended to foster and protect the exercise of First Amendment freedoms.
  • The speech at issue in this case relates to a matter of public concern within the scope of the TPPA.
  • A narrow interpretation of the TPPA would negatively impact news reporting on matters of public concern.

Quote: “This case illustrates how a narrow interpretation of the TPPA’s application could adversely affect journalism, including by chilling the speech of sources.”

Related: The Reporters Committee monitors the state of anti-SLAPP laws and related court cases across the country. To learn more about our work in this area and see what SLAPP protections look like in your state, check out our Anti-SLAPP Legal Guide.