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Alaska Structures, Inc. v. Hedlund

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

April 21, 2014

Alaska Structures, Inc., Appellant ,
v.
Charles J. Hedlund, Respondent

Superior Court County: King. Superior Court Cause No: 11-2-28441-7.SEA. Date filed in Superior Court: 8/24/12. Superior Court Judge Signing: Mary Yu.

Oscar Y. Lewis Jr. and Stacia N. Lay (of Hendricks & Lewis ), for appellant.

Michele Lynn Earl-Hubbard (of Allied Law Group LLC ), for respondent.

Katherine George on behalf of Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington and Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, amici curiae.

AUTHOR: Grosse, JPT. WE CONCUR: Lau, J., Dwyer, J.

OPINION

Page 1083

Grosse, J.[*]

[180 Wn.App. 594] ¶ 1 To succeed on a special motion to strike under Washington's anti-SLAPP statute,[1] the moving party must make an initial prima facie showing that the claimant's suit arises from an act in furtherance of his right of petition or free speech in connection with a matter of public concern. If the movant does not meet that threshold, then the anti-SLAPP motion is dismissed. Here, the plaintiff, Alaska Structures Inc., brought an action against the defendant, Charles Hedlund, for violating a confidentiality agreement. The gravamen of the complaint is not whether there was a violation of Hedlund's free speech rights but, rather, whether the parties' contract was violated. Because this is a private contractual matter, the anti-SLAPP statute does not apply. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court and remand for further proceedings.

[180 Wn.App. 595] FACTS

¶ 2 From February 2007 to January 2010, Charles Hedlund worked as a sales coordinator at Alaska Structures Inc. (AKS), a supplier of tents to the United States military. In August 2011, Hedlund made several postings regarding AKS on an Internet jobsite forum, Indeed.com. Those postings were removed from the web site at AKS's request. Indeed.com is a web site designed to be a resource for job seekers. It includes job postings, salary averages, and a forum where employees and applicants can discuss a company's work environment. The web site is designed to allow job seekers to ask others about a company to aid in making a decision whether or not to work there. Hedlund claimed he made his comments to describe an accurate picture of AKS to prospective employees and because he suspected that other postings on the web site describing AKS were made by employees masquerading as job seekers. Hedlund characterized the various postings regarding AKS as a debate among the parties posting. AKS has focused

Page 1084

on one particular posting as providing the basis for its suit of breach of confidentiality. Hedlund wrote:

[T]he security measures at AKS are all consumer-grade off the shelf fare installed by the former CIO [(chief information officer)], who had no prior security experience. ... The cheap cameras provided no clues as to the identity of the thieves. That is why they now have the high-tech security precaution of human guards.

Hedlund denied having any special knowledge of security measures. While Hedlund was employed there, Dylan Schneider, the CIO of AKS, installed software and security cameras. AKS knew that Schneider did not have any prior experience in deploying security measures.

¶ 3 Hedlund posted his comment after he had left AKS and after the AKS headquarters had been broken into. His comments were based on public information contained ...


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