MN High Court Clarifies Burden of Proof in SLAPP Case

Minnesota case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: SLAPP statute, Minn Stat 554.

Middle-Snake-Tamarac Rivers Watershed District v. Stengrim. MN anti-SLAPP statute, burden of proof, Minn Stat SLAPP statute, Minn Stat 554

Middle-Snake-Tamarac Rivers Watershed District v. Stengrim, ___ N.W.2d ___ (Minn. June 30, 2010) (A08-825) 0630.pdf

Watershed district brought action to enforce settlement agreement arising out of earlier litigation involving flood management project. In settlement agreement, defendant had agreed to "address no further challenges."

Defendant moved to dismiss, pursuant to Minnesota's anti-SLAPP statute, Minn. Stat. 554.01-.05. Under that statute, the non moving party (plaintiff) is required to show, by clear and convincing evidence, that the moving party is not immune from liability.

But despite this burden of proof, the Supreme Court held that the trial court must first make a preliminary determination about the applicability of the statute. Dismissal of the lawsuit was not appropriate because "[p]reexisting legal relationships, such as those based on a settlement agreement where a party waives certain rights, may legitimately limit a party's public participation. It would be illogical to read [the statute] as providing presumptive immunity to actions that a moving party may have contractually agreed to forgo or limit."

No. A08-825, N.W.2d (Minn. June 30, 2013).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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