Navigating Oklahoma’s anti-SLAPP law

Court of law, trial, male judge ruling out a decision in a lawsuit, striking gavel to close hearing.

In the landscape of Oklahoma’s business litigation, the Oklahoma Citizens Participation Act (OCPA) stands as a critical yet often lesser-known tool.

Designed to combat frivolous lawsuits that chill First Amendment rights, the OCPA is Oklahoma’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) legislation. Anti-SLAPP laws provide a defense against costly lawsuits aimed at silencing critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their opposition.

One of the OCPA’s most powerful features is its financial implications for litigation. If a party successfully invokes the OCPA to dismiss a claim filed against it, the court is required to award the party its attorney’s fees and costs and impose a mandatory sanction on the party filing the claim(s), usually the plaintiff. While this provision can help deter meritless lawsuits, it also provides a significant financial shield for any litigant who has been sued.

Contrary to common belief, the OCPA extends beyond defamation claims and offers a robust defense in various disputes, including claims alleging breach of contract or business interference. It is essential for any Oklahoman who might have a business dispute to incorporate the OCPA into strategic legal planning, regardless of whether you are thinking of asserting a claim or defending against one.

Consider a business facing a lawsuit from a contractor alleging defamation or business interference after the business owner left a negative review about the contractor’s work quality. Although the business should be entitled to express its First Amendment rights, absent the OCPA, the business may just agree to remove the review rather than pay to defend against the lawsuit. But with the OCPA, the business owner can request dismissal, thereby possibly avoiding protracted legal battles and associated costs, all while recovering its attorney’s fees.

Likewise, potential litigants should be mindful when asserting claims that could invoke the OCPA as it could end their lawsuit prematurely and result in paying attorney’s fees, costs, and sanctions to the same party who they believe caused them harm.

For business disputes in Oklahoma, the takeaway is clear: the OCPA is a significant legal tool to be used across a spectrum of litigation matters. Its potential to deflect unwarranted lawsuits and mitigate legal expenses underscores the importance of incorporating the OCPA into your legal strategy or engaging legal professionals who are well-equipped to navigate Oklahoma’s anti-SLAPP landscape effectively.

This article appeared in the March 28, 2024, issue of The Journal Record. It is reproduced with permission from the publisher. © The Journal Record Publishing Co.