NewULife files anti-SLAPP response to Awakend’s lawsuit
NewULife has filed an anti-SLAPP response to Awakend’s defamation lawsuit against them.
Awakend’s lawsuit was filed on December 23rd, 2022. BehindMLM covered the suit on January 3rd, 2023.
Alleged causes of action against NewULife include defamation as slander, defamation at trade libel, tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, tortious interference with contractual relationship , breach of written contract and civil conspiracy.
Note that Awakend’s lawsuit cites both individual plaintiffs and defendants (e.g. NewULife founder and CEO Alexy Goldstein, right).
To keep thing simple however, where I’ve quoted from legal filings I’ve reduced “Plaintiff” to Awakend and “Defendant” to NewULife.
For those unfamiliar with an anti-SLAPP motion to strike, NewULife essentially argues that Awakend seeks to prevent participation in matters of public significance.
To prevail on a special motion to strike, the moving party in the action must first show that the lawsuit is based on claims related to their exercise of their rights to free speech or petition.
To that end, NewULife argues
claims within the (Awakend’s) Complaint arise from statements or writings made in a place open to the public or a public forum in connection with an issue of public interest that are protected … and/or other conduct in furtherance of the exercise of the constitutional right of free speech in connection with a public issue or an issue of public interest that is protected.
In their Complaint, (Awakend) allege(s) that (NewULife) have engaged in a civil conspiracy to tear down (Awakend’s) business through a campaign of slander and libel.
Not only does (Awakend’s) Complaint target speech activity that is indisputably protected by California’s anti-SLAPP statute, each of the claims fails on its merits.
As such, the Complaint should be stricken.
NewULife open their anti-SLAPP motion to strike by providing context to Danelle Meoli (right) leaving the company.
When Meoli was dismissed for violating NUL’s policies and procedures, Meoli and NUL agreed to go their separate ways pursuant to a settlement agreement, which contained a non-disparagement provision.
However, Meoli and her business partner, Plaintiff Rodney James, could not help themselves from bad-mouthing NUL and its executives in the privileged context of a lawsuit.
Awakend essentially argues that NewULife has set out to to destroy Awakend’s MLM opp, launched last year after Meoli left NewULife.
(Awakend’s) sparsely pleaded Complaint alleges that (NewULife) conspired to thwart Meoli and James’ new business venture, Awakend, LLC (“Awakend”), by spreading false information about (Awakend) via YouTube videos, blog articles, and social media posts published by third parties.
However, (NewULife) had nothing to do with any of these blogs, videos, or social media posts—they are all the work of unrelated third parties.
Moreover, the allegedly defamatory statements contained within them are non-actionable because they are expressions of opinion, or because they are true.
Addressing Awakend’s allegation that NewULife “discuss(ed Rodney) James in a derogatory manner by referring to him as ‘the pedophile,’ ‘the rapist,’ and/or ‘the criminal'”, NewULife doesn’t outright deny the allegation but does provide context.
NUL ran a background check on James. The background check revealed an extensive criminal record.
According to the background check, James has been convicted of a range of crimes dating back to 1989 including contributing to the delinquency of a minor, criminal trespass, theft from a person, driving with a suspended license, burglary, assault, stalking, obstructing justice, unlawful detention, and tampering with a witness.
In addition, James also has been arrested twice for object rape, as well as for driving with an expired vehicle registration and for driving with plates registered to another vehicle.
The statements that James was a “pedophile,” “rapist,” “criminal,” and “served time in prison” are true.
The background check indicates James was arrested twice for object rape, and was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
NewULife also doesn’t categorically deny referring to Meoli as ‘the cunt’ or ‘the bitch’. The company does however claim that the alleged speech is protected under Californian anti-SLAPP law.
NewULife also deny having authored any of BehindMLM’s coverage of Awakend, as alleged in Awakend’s complaint.
Contrary to Plaintiffs’ allegations, however, Defendants never wrote, or ghost-wrote, any negative articles about Plaintiffs, and Defendants never submitted any such articles to be shared or published by any third parties.
While Shawn Spainhour is indeed an employee of NUL, no executive or employee of NUL, including Mr. Spainhour, had had any contact with any person involved with the Behind MLM website prior to Plaintiff’s filing of this suit.
Indeed, “Oz,” the pseudonymous sole editor and writer of Behind MLM’s content, corroborates this point.
Oz writes all of Behind MLM’s articles himself. Declaration of Oz, ¶ 8.2
Oz has never published articles submitted by outside sources. Id. In short, none of the articles referenced in Plaintiffs’ Complaint are the work of Defendants.
Full disclosure: BehindMLM was referenced in Awakend’s complaint, alleging that NewULife had provided me with pre-written articles to publish.
In BehindMLM’s coverage of Awakend’s lawsuit I categorically noted this was false.
After publishing that article NewULife’s legal counsel reached out to me, in my capacity as the sole author and editor of BehindMLM’s content, to request a declaration.
I provided the declaration, which essentially reiterates my statements in BehindMLM’s published January 3rd article.
Beyond that exchange, the only other contact I’ve had with anyone from or representing NewULife was to request a copy of NewULife’s filed February 21st anti-SLAPP response.
This was so I could put this article together, as part of BehindMLM’s ongoing coverage of Awakend’s lawsuit.
Typically BehindMLM sources legal documents on its own but state-level lawsuits makes this process prohibitively cumbersome. /end disclosure
NewULife goes on to deny it had any role in YouTube content relating to Awakend.
(NewULife) did not “conspire” with any YouTubers to make videos about (Awakend).
With respect to discussion of Awakend being in the public interest, NewULife writes;
(Awakend’s) own allegations establish that Plaintiffs and their business activities are matters of public interest.
According to (Awakend), Meoli was the “face of the company” at NUL, with a “downline” of 600,000 distributors in nine different countries, and held a position on NUL’s “Advisory Board.”
(Awakend) further allege(s) that Awakend has quickly enrolled “approximately 40,000 customers and distributors in its salesforce” since the company’s launch in August 2022.
Furthermore, (Awakend’s) business model as a multi-level marketing company is premised on enlisting members of the general public to act as distributors, so any public discussion of (Awakend’s) business model would be an issue of public interest.
NewULife also argues that Meoli and James “made themselves limited public figures”
as a result of their decision to voluntarily inject themselves into a public controversy by way of their aggressive advertising and public promotion of the Awakend brand and its Zenith product.
(Awakend’s) campaign to promote Awakend and Zenith has been, by their own admission, a “total success,” with 40,000 customers and distributors enrolled in the fourth-month span between Awakend’s launch and (Awkaned’s) filing of their Complaint.
(Meoli and James) have willfully exposed themselves to public scrutiny in their pursuit of sales, and thus they qualify as limited purpose public figures.
These are prongs the court must find satisfied if NewULife’s anti-SLAPP filing is to succeed.
NewULife goes on to generally allege that Awakend will not be able to “show a probability of prevailing” on the remaining causes of action.
Looking forward, the court has scheduled a July 3rd hearing for NewULife’s anti-SLAPP filing.
I’m not sure if Awakend has the opportunity to file a response to NewULife’s filing. If they do and one is filed, assuming I can get a copy of the filing, I’ll publish an update below.
Failing which, our next update should be shortly after the July 3rd hearing.
Update 8th August 2023 – There’s been a bit of back and forth over the past month but nothing that looks substantive.
NewULife’s anti-SLAPP motion and a Motion for Sanctions will now be heard on October 16th. That same day the court will also hold a Case Management Conference.
Update 19th October 2023 – The October 16th hearing went ahead. As per an October 16th notice on the case docket, the court has “taken the matter under submission”.