Tennessee has a narrow anti-SLAPP statute that immunizes from civil liability individuals for certain statements they make to governmental agencies. Tenn. Code Ann. 4-21-1003 (2011). Specifically, “[a]ny person who in furtherance of such person’s right of free speech or petition under the Tennessee or United States Constitution in connection with a public or governmental issue communicates information regarding another person or entity to any agency of the federal, state or local government regarding a matter of concern to that agency” is privileged from liability. The statute does not apply if the person knowingly or with reckless disregard for its falsity communicated false information about a public official or figure, or negligently communicated false information about a private person or entity.

The statute is silent about the procedure by which a defendant can assert his claim of immunity. It also does not address the effect of a SLAPP defendant’s claim of immunity on discovery proceedings, nor specify what standard a court will use or what evidence it will consider in deciding the issue. Tennessee’s anti-SLAPP law includes a provision allowing any governmental agency to which the SLAPP defendant’s acts were directed to intervene to defend a suit based on a statement to the agency. 4-21-1004.

If the SLAPP defendant prevails on his immunity defense, the court will impose costs and attorney fees on the other side. 4-21-1003. It will also award attorney fees and costs to a governmental agency that intervened and prevailed. 4-21-1004. Conversely, the agency must pay the plaintiff’s costs and attorney fees if it cannot establish that the statements were immune. The statute does not state whether a losing SLAPP defendant must pay anything to the opposing party.