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Lara Hollingsworth Prevails at Texas Supreme Court with Ruling that Clarifies Use of Anti-SLAPP Law

Rusty Hardin & Associates partner Lara Hudgins Hollingsworth secured a Texas Supreme Court ruling that clarifies when parties in litigation can use the Texas anti-SLAPP law.

The closely watched case involved TV star and real estate investor Armando Montelongo. Ms. Hollingsworth successfully argued that the law’s 60-day time limit for filing an anti-SLAPP defense should be allowed to reset when a party either adds new parties, alleges new essential facts, or asserts new causes of action.

In a unanimous decision, the justices agreed with Ms. Hollingsworth that Mr. Montelongo was not time-barred from filing a motion to dismiss pursuant to the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA). The law protects parties’ rights of free speech, petition, and association and allows for early dismissal of meritless claims.

Ms. Hollingsworth argued that the TCPA’s dismissal deadline should have reset when those suing Mr. Montelongo amended their petition and added new claims of fraud, fraudulent concealment, and conspiracy to commit fraud that weren’t included in the original petition.

Law360 covered the Supreme Court ruling in an article April 30 (subscription required):

“In the past, intermediate appellate courts in the state have consistently agreed an amended pleading asserting new essential factual allegations constituted a new legal action, but the Texas Supreme Court hadn’t spoken on the issue. Friday’s opinion clarifies what the Legislature meant by early dismissal and establishes three instances in which the dismissal deadline can restart.

“Lara Hudgins Hollingsworth of Rusty Hardin & Associates LLP, representing Montelongo, told Law360 on Friday the state Supreme Court’s decision finally provides clarity to an area of law the intermediate appellate courts have been struggling with.

“It’s a solid opinion,” she said. “It gives guidance where guidance has been needed.”

The case is Armando Montelongo Jr. et al. v. Cecil G. Abrea et al., case number 19-1112, in the Supreme Court of Texas.

Also representing Mr. Montelongo and his companies along with Ms. Hollingsworth are Joe Roden and John MacVane of Rusty Hardin & Associates LLP.