VS Clipper Mill LLC v. Council of Unit Owners of the Millrace Condominium
The developer of a planned unit development sued homeowners who opposed its additional construction in their community, claiming that a clause in the community declaration governing the structure of the community association included a non-disparagement provision to which the homeowners had agreed when bought their homes. The trial court dismissed the case under Maryland’s anti-SLAPP law, and the developer appealed. Public Citizen and the ACLU filed an amicus curiae brief arguing that the clause did not waive the homeowners’ free speech rights, that the clause, if it did so, would violate state and federal laws barring non-disparagement clauses in consumer contracts, and that the trial court properly found the lawsuit to be a SLAPP filed in bad faith and subject to dismissal under the state anti-SLAPP law. The appellate court affirmed, accepting our arguments about how bad faith is determined but without reaching the federal law issues.