Aber v. Comstock, 212 Cal. App. 4th 931 (2013)

Lisa Aber sued her employer and two co-employees (Michael Comstock, Aber’s supervisor, and James Cioppa) for sexual harassment and sexual battery, among other things. Comstock filed a cross-complaint against Aber in which he alleged defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. In response to Comstock’s cross-complaint, Aber filed a special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure § 425.15 (an “anti-SLAPP” motion). The trial court granted Aber’s motion to strike and ordered Comstock to pay her attorney’s fees. In this opinion, the Court of Appeal affirmed dismissal of Comstock’s cross-complaint on the ground that Aber’s statements were made in or in connection with matters under review by an official proceeding or body (i.e., the police, a nurse, the company’s HR manager) and that Comstock failed to demonstrate a likelihood that he would prevail on the merits of his claims (i.e., he failed to submit admissible evidence that Aber had made defamatory statements about him and, in any event, any defamatory statements would be privileged). The Court also affirmed dismissal of Comstock’s claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress because the “complained-of conduct must be outrageous, that is, beyond all bounds of reasonable decency” and must result in severe emotional distress – and there was no evidence of that in this case.