Neil Dymott Hudson attorney Gina Lacagnina obtained a defense verdict for a widowed homeowner on June 7th, 2010 - after a five-day jury trial in Los Angeles Superior Court. Defendant was a 73-year-old, widowed homeowner. Plaintiff was caretaker and tenant to the Defendant’s deceased ex-husband. Upon Defendant’s return to her home after four years, she discovered vandalism and over two hundred thousand dollars of personal property missing from the home. Plaintiff had sole custody and possession of the home immediately prior to the time the Defendant re-entered the house. Plaintiff resided in the home for a period of three years with the Defendant’s ex-husband. After the Defendant’s ex-husband passed away, all personal property held during the marriage along with title to the home passed to the Defendant in accordance with the marital settlement agreement.

The Plaintiff refused leave the house after the ex-husband passed away and title to the home passed to the Defendant. The Defendant obtained necessary, legal counsel and filed the appropriate actions with the Court. The Defendant attempted to enter the home and observed her personal property boxed up and marked identifying the Plaintiff as the owner. The Defendant continued to file all necessary actions with the appropriate courts and made the required reports to the police and insurance companies.

The Plaintiff moved to North Carolina and ensued on a spree of lawsuits against the Defendant and the estate of the Defendant’s deceased ex-husband. The Plaintiff attempted to claim slander of title to the residence, probate of an alleged lost will, slander per se, slander per quod, false light, intentional infliction of emotional distress and request for restraining order against the 73-year-old, widowed Defendant residing in California. The Court sustained a demurrer to the Complaint and First Amended Complaint relating to the slander of title and lost will causes of action.

The Plaintiff demanded $2.5 million dollars for slander, false light, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Defense countered an offer in the amount of $17,500.

The remaining causes of action were brought before the Court and trial commenced on June 1, 2010. The Defense successfully motioned in limine and argued to exclude Plaintiff’s designated psychiatry expert prior to trial. The Defense also successfully argued and applied litigation privilege to all statements alleged as “defamatory,” and communicated by Defendant. Ultimately, the Defendant’s specially prepared jury instructions and verdict forms relating to litigation privilege and its application to various communications were adopted by the Court and provided to the jury during deliberations.

The Defense successfully argued and was granted non-suit for Plaintiff’s causes of action for False Light, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress and Punitive damages relating to all claims.

On June 7, 2010, the Jury’s verdict was 12-0 indicating all statements made by Defendant, concerning Plaintiff, were protected by the litigation privilege and therefore no cause of action for slander could survive.

Gina L. Lacagnina is an associate at Neil Dymott Hudson and concentrates her practice on both transactional and civil litigation matters. Ms. Lacagnina may be reached at (619) 238-1712.