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26 November 20192 minute read

DLA Piper achieves victory for California Institute of Technology

DLA Piper recently represented the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in the dismissal of a case filed by David Lillie, an employee of Caltech subcontractor ManTech International, which alleged defamation and a number of other causes.

Lillie sued his employer ManTech in 2016, which resulted in protracted litigation, including testimony by Caltech employees. The court held in favor of ManTech, dismissing the case in its entirety. In 2019, Lillie filed a lawsuit against Caltech in Los Angeles County Superior Court for defamation and other causes related to the laboratory's communication with ManTech.

Representing Caltech, DLA Piper took the position that Lillie's suit constituted a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) and was intended to prevent Caltech from communicating with ManTech about Lillie's misconduct. Caltech filed an Anti-SLAPP motion and concurrently pursued a motion to dismiss, arguing that communications between it and ManTech were acts in furtherance of its right of petition or free speech under the United States and California Constitution.

Caltech argued that its communications with ManTech were statements made in connection with an internal investigation and qualified as a common interest privilege, given the nature of the business relationship between Caltech and ManTech. Caltech also argued that its communications with ManTech were at all times truthful. On November 8, 2019, the court held that Caltech met the standard under Anti-SLAPP, dismissing the case in its entirety, which entitles Caltech to recover its attorneys' fees from Lillie.

The DLA Piper team representing California Institute of Technology was led by partner Holly R. Lake (Los Angeles) and included associate Ryan M. Estes (Los Angeles).