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Funimation Files Anti-SLAPP Motion to Dismiss Vic Mignogna's Lawsuit

posted on by Rafael Antonio Pineda
Anime distributor says tweets are free speech, argues Mignogna cannot back up claims

Funimation filed an anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) motion to dismiss voice actor Vic Mignogna's lawsuit against it on Monday, claiming that the lawsuit impedes Funimation's freedom of speech. The motion cited the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA) as a measure against such lawsuits.

Funimation's filing of the motion to dismiss halts all discovery in the lawsuit until the Tarrant County, Texas court has ruled on the motion. The court must set a hearing within 30 days of the motion's filing.

Funimation argued that the TCPA applies to this case because Funimation's tweets involved a matter of public concern. The company said that Mignogna qualifies as both a general-purpose and limited-purpose public figure, thus protecting Funimation's tweets as an exercise of free speech. Funimation also argued that the TCPA protects Funimation's "right of association with the anime community when it tweeted about the situation." The anime distributor further noted that Mignogna cannot provide clear and specific evidence for each of his claims against Funimation. Additionally, the company claimed that it cannot be held liable for the alleged conduct of Monica Rial, Ronald Toye, and Jamie Marchi — its co-defendants in the lawsuit — as they are not Funimation agents or employees.

In summary, Funimation claimed that its tweets about its decision to terminate its working relationship with Mignogna were truthful, non-defamatory, and an exercise of free speech and its right of association.

In the document, Funimation is represented by John Volney of Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst in Dallas, Texas.

Funimation issued a denial of Mignogna's allegations in June.

Mignogna filed the lawsuit against Funimation and the other defendants on April 18. In the lawsuit, Mignogna claims defamation, interference in existing contracts and prospective business relations, and civil conspiracy over the defendants' Twitter posts and Funimation's investigation against Mignogna for alleged sexual harassment.

Mignogna is seeking "monetary relief over $1,000,000.00" in part due to Funimation no longer contracting him for future productions, as well as conventions canceling his appearances. Mignogna and his lawyer are also seeking "judgment against the Defendants for actual, consequential and punitive damages according to the claims ... in amounts to be determined on final hearing, pre- and post-judgment interest at the highest rate permitted by law, and costs of court" in addition to "such other and further relief to which he may be justly or equitably entitled" and "general relief."

Mignogna is represented by Ty Beard of Beard Harris Bullock Hughes in Tyler, Texas.

The lawsuit alleges that Sony executive Tammi Denbow told Mignogna in mid-January she was "investigating three allegations of sexual harassment against him," and that on January 29 "Denbow and another Sony executive informed [Mignogna] that his employment with Funimation was terminated" following an investigation. Denbow is listed on LinkedIn as "Executive Director, Employee Relations at Sony Pictures Entertainment." Sony Pictures Television Networks acquired a majority stake in Funimation in October 2017.

The lawsuit mentions that "[o]n February 5, 2019, Funimation informed Anime News Network that Vic's employment had been terminated." ANN did not report on February 5 that Mignogna's employment had been terminated, but reported that he was recast in the English dub of The Morose Mononokean II anime. Funimation posted a public statement on Twitter on February 11 that it would not engage Mignogna on future productions.

Mignogna has been accused by a number of con attendees of kissing and embracing them without consent over the course of his career, with some allegations dating back to 2008. These allegations spread on social media earlier this year. Fellow voice actors have publicly issued anecdotes of their personal experiences with Mignogna or support for those speaking out via social media.

Rooster Teeth has replaced Mignogna in the cast of RWBY. Many of Mignogna's convention appearances have been canceled.

Mignogna issued an apology at the Bak-Anime event in early February, and posted a public statement later that month. On February 21, Mignogna posted another statement on Twitter that read, "I have now very reluctantly retained a law firm as my last and only recourse to attempt to salvage my reputation and my 20-year career in this industry."

Source: re:SearchTX

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