Join us at 1 p.m. ET Thursday for an AARP Coronavirus Tele-Town Hall on managing your money. Learn more.
by Robin Gerber, AARP Bulletin, March 8, 2010
The Superior Court of San Francisco County ruled that Wilbanks’ suit against Wolk should be dismissed under California’s anti-SLAPP laws, and that Wolk should receive $7,000 for legal expenses. Wilbanks then appealed to the California Court of Appeals.
The appeals court explained that to win an anti-SLAPP suit, Wolk’s statements had to be made in a public forum and be put forward in the public interest. The court ruled that Wolk’s website could be considered a public forum, and informing consumers about the risk of viatical settlements fell within the public interest requirement for an anti-SLAPP suit. But for Wolk to win, the court also had to find that Wilbanks did not have a probability of winning his defamation case.
Wilbanks had to convince the court that, if all his claims were believed at trial, he would win. With this in mind, the court found that even though Wolk’s claims stated the truth about the case against Wilbanks and the Department of Insurance investigation, she had distorted those facts by omitting key information.
The court said, “It appears that Wolk did not check with plaintiffs before publishing the material. She knew that the judgment was in the small claims court. She apparently knew that the Department of Insurance would investigate any complaint submitted to it, and therefore was aware that an investigation by the department did not establish that the complaint had validity. Wolk’s refusal to discuss [her claims] with Wilbanks could be viewed as demonstrating a lack of interest in the truth.”
The court found that Wilbanks did have a chance of winning his suit against Wolk, and reversed the lower court decision.
Having lost her anti-SLAPP suit, Wolk was faced with a trial accusing her of defamation. After spending thousands of dollars, and untold hours of her time, Wolk settled the case with Wilbanks.
Wolk’s website still contains information about unscrupulous viatical settlement companies and brokers, but Scott Wilbanks is not mentioned anywhere.
What do you think of the verdict? Let us know in the Community Commentary below.
Robin Gerber is a lawyer and the author of Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her.
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
Members save 5% on a monthly subscription.
Members save 30% off the first year of a World Explorer subscription.
Members save 20% on purchases or $20 when they spend $79.99 or more.
AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at