LARRY SEAQUIST and CARLA SEAQUIST, and the marital community comprised thereof, Appellants,
MICHELLE CALDIER, a single person, Respondent.
2014, Larry Seaquist and Michelle Caldier were competing for
26th District State Representative. Larry and Carla Seaquist
allege that Caldier defamed Seaquist and placed him in a
false light through political campaign materials and in an
interview. Caldier moved for summary judgment dismissing the
Seaquists' claims. The Seaquists appeal the trial
court's order granting Caldier's motion for summary
judgment dismissal of both claims.
some of Caldier's statements were unquestionably
misleading and ignoble, the Seaquists have not established a
prima facie case of defamation or false light by evidence of
convincing clarity. Therefore, we affirm.
2014, Caldier challenged Seaquist for his 26th District State
Representative position. On August 29, 2014, after attending
a political candidate endorsement interview at the Kitsap
Sun office in Bremerton, both candidates exited the
building and went to their respective vehicles.
Seaquist's vehicle was parked directly behind
Caldier's along the street. While both candidates were
sitting in their cars, but before either drove off, Seaquist
took two identical photos of the back of Caldier's car.
Seaquist later stated that he was impressed with the
mechanics of the car's convertible roof and that he took
the photograph to assist him in remembering the car's
make and model.
photos show the back of a white Lexus IS250 C convertible
with the top down. The photos are a wide angle shot, with the
street on the left, sidewalk and parking lot on the right,
and the bottom of the frame shows the dashboard of the
vehicle from which the photos were taken. On close
inspection, a portion of Caldier's face can be seen
through the rearview mirror of the Lexus. Caldier's red
sunglasses cover most of the portion of her face that can be
seen in the mirror.
noticed what Seaquist was doing, exited her car, and asked
Seaquist if he had taken photos. Seaquist responded in the
days later, on September 2, Caldier posted on Facebook
saying, "I came out of a candidate interview and saw
Rep. Larry Seaquest [sic], my opponent, taking pictures of me
as I got into my car. Wow. . . . I felt like I was being
stalked!" Clerk's Papers (CP) at 708. Individuals
commented on Caldier's post saying things like,
"That's kinda creepy," "Wow, gross,"
"You might just be his midnight fantasy," and
"I am happy to be your bodyguard." CP at 708-09.
Caldier "liked" a number of the comments referring
to Seaquist as weird, creepy, and gross. CP at 508-12.
Eventually Caldier removed the post.
September 5, Caldier filed a police report with the Bremerton
Police Department. She spoke with Officer Robert Davis Jr.
who filled out the demographic and narrative pages of a
police report. Caldier said that "on a couple of
occasions" Seaquist took her photograph getting out of a
car or in public. CP at 84. Officer Davis wrote, "I
advised Caldier that from what she has told me Seaquist has
not committed any crime." CP at 84. The report also
notes that Caldier stated people had taken photos of her home
and children and trespassed on her property. Caldier further
stated that she did not want Seaquist contacted.
later, on September 12, Steven Gardner of the Kitsap
Sun wrote an article discussing Caldier's Facebook
post and police report, and garnered comments from both
candidates about the incident. The article included
Seaquist's photo of Caldier and her car, which Caldier
acknowledges she saw when she read the article.
October 8, the Caldier campaign released a video ad on
YouTube and local television mentioning the incident. A
portion of the video included an actor saying, "Seaquist
was caught secretly photographing Michelle, invading her
privacy." Ex. B. When the actor said this, the screen
showed a doctored photograph making Seaquist appear to be
hunched over taking a photo with text underneath stating,
"Larry Seaquist was caught secretly taking photos of
Caldier." CP at 712 (capitalization omitted). The video
also showed text saying, "Source: Police report filed
September 5, 2014." Ex. 1 at Ex. B (capitalization
omitted). Caldier approved the video.
October 10, Caldier was interviewed on a radio show. The
following exchange occurred:
[Host]: Well, let me ask both of you, then-Melanie and
Michelle [Caldier]- you're Republicans, right? And
we're told that Republicans have a war on women. Why in
the world did you choose the Republican Party? Why don't
you each step in and let me know? Michelle, why don't you
[Caldier]: Well, it's funny because I did not even know
that there was a war on women. In fact, I have had so much
support from the party, and, you know, with some of the
experiences I've gone through. I've been actually
harassed and had people take pictures of me, had my opponent
take pictures of me. I'd have to say that the Democrats
probably have more of a war of women, with my experience.
CP at 88-89.
near October 16, Caldier sent out a campaign mailer to voters
in Kitsap and Pierce counties. One side of the mailer
contained the same doctored image of Seaquist as seen in the
campaign video. Seaquist was made to appear hunched over,
with his coat collar up, sneakily taking a photo with a
camera phone while in a grassy area. In print, the mailer
read, "WHY WAS LARRY SEAQUIST TAKING PICTURES of
Michelle Caldier?" CP at 93. Underneath this, the mailer
stated, "CALDIER FILES POLICE REPORT." CP at 93.
other side of the mailer, a number of statements were under
the heading, "CALDIER FILES POLICE REPORT AGAINST
SEAQUIST." CP at 94. On the left side were two separate
statements, "Why Were Seaquist Campaign People Taking
Pictures at Caldier Home?" and, directly beneath,
"Caldier Files Police Report Against Seaquist." CP
at 94. The middle of the mailer had the heading,
"Multiple Incidents Lead to Concern by Caldier." CP
this, there was text on the left and an image of a
demographic page of the police report Caldier filed against
Seaquist. The text stated:
It started with unwelcome strangers taking pictures of her
home. Then the mailbox was tampered with leading to the
likelihood of trespassing-a Federal offense. The final straw
was an inappropriate intrusion by Larry Seaquist himself,
sneakily taking pictures of Michelle while she was getting in
to her car.
Enough is enough! Michelle filed a police report seen here to
communicate a message to Larry Seaquist and his campaign
staff that they had crossed the line. Friendly campaigning
had turned into what felt like stalking and harassment to Ms.
Caldier, so she took action.
CP at 94.
this block of text, there was a photo. The photo showed the
hands of a person taking a photo of Caldier in her car. The
photographer was at the passenger side window taking the
photo of Caldier's profile. Next to this photo and under
the police report image was a photo of Seaquist. Under
Seaquist's photo and in large lettering, the mailer
stated, "Larry Seaquist Should be Ashamed." Under
this, "You would expect a higher level of integrity from
a man with Larry Seaquist's experience. Has the Seaquist
team resorted to dirty tactics to win? It appears so."
CP at 94. Finally, on the right side of the mailer, there was
a picture of Caldier with the accompanying text, "'I
don't think a female candidate is supposed to feel like I
have felt in the privacy of my own home and car. This kind of
behavior is concerning and possibly illegal.'-Michelle
Caldier." CP at 94.
website promoting Caldier's campaign,
Larryseaquistfacts.com, posted the same graphics and
statements as the mailer, except for Caldier's picture
and quote. The website contained additional information
recounting and criticizing Seaquist's political stances.
Caldier acknowledged that this website promoted her campaign,
but she denied running it or directing the content of the
site. Caldier's campaign staff, however, acknowledged
running the website as part of the Caldier campaign.
the Seaquists filed suit alleging defamation and false light.
The lawsuit was dismissed, but later
the superior court vacated its prior dismissal and findings,
Caldier moved for summary judgment, which the superior court
granted in part and denied in part. In its order, the court
examined each statement and denied summary judgment regarding
the statements it found to potentially support a defamation
by implication claim. Because the court noted a split of
authorities as to whether defamation by implication was a
viable theory in this State, it certified the question to
this court. However, the Seaquists renounced any defamation
by implication claim and, as a result, we denied
trial court, after requiring the Seaquists to expressly state
they waived any defamation by implication claims, granted
Caldier's motion for summary ...