Vacation rental owner loses libel action against neighbor
A Clark County judge ruled Thursday that statements made by a woman in Las Vegas, Nevada Current about short-term rentals in her neighborhood were “good faith communications in support of the right to free speech in direct link to a problem of public interest “.
Judge Christy Craig ruled that local businessman Gary Wu “had no chance of success” in his libel claim against Lisa Skurow, a vocal opponent of vacation rentals such as those owned by Mr. Wu in Las Vegas neighborhoods.
Wu sued Skurow for statements to Current and comments she allegedly made during a hearing on Clark County’s code enforcement (which Skurow says she did not attend) claiming that she said Wu “operated a brothel on her property.”
He alleged Skurow’s comments in June 2021 story include “manifestly false statements which (1) The plaintiff operated a “mini brothel”; (2) that the applicant has “buses full of escorts show up in the middle of the night ‘at his Property; and (3) that the applicant produces pornography on his Goods.”
Skurow countered, alleging that Wu was trying to prevent him from speaking about a matter of public importance.
“… Sir. Wu is now seeking to extort Ms. Skurow into silence with a frivolous lawsuit seeking millions of dollars in imaginary damages,” lawyer Maggie McLetchie wrote on behalf of Skurow. The “willful misreading” of the cover Wu’s media “demonstrates that he will do anything – such as pursuing the frivolous and vexatious lawsuit against Ms. Skurow – to punish critics of his company.”
Craig, in minutes posted to the court’s website Thursday, said Wu had “misrepresented” the story, noting that it “does not say what Mr. Wu claims she is doing – nor does he support a complaint for defamation “.
“… Ms. Skurow’s statements reflected in the article were made squarely in the context of a public debate on short-term rental (‘STR’) properties in Las Vegas, and were made to attract attention. and government action, ”Craig wrote. “They do not correspond to a simple curiosity about what may or may not be happening behind the walls of” party houses “.
Nevada’s Strategic Law Against Public Participation provides immunity from lawsuits that attempt to thwart participation in public matters. The judge has the discretion to impose a judgment of $ 10,000 against Wu, “as a punishment for attempting to enlist this court as his personal censor,” McLetchie wrote in closing arguments.
Craig said STRs are a legitimate matter of public interest.
“This topic was a topic of legislative interest in the 2021 session. Additionally, STRs are a matter of public interest that the Clark County Commission has addressed on several occasions since the STR ban there. has several years. In addition, the subject received media attention.
“The focus of the speaker’s conduct should be the public interest rather than a mere effort to gather ammunition for another round of private controversy,” noted Craig. “Ms. Skurow’s warnings about the dangers and nuisances of ‘party houses’ STRs were not aimed specifically at Mr. Wu or his properties, but the public controversy surrounding these houses more generally.”
“Also, Ms. Skurow and Mr. Wu have never been involved in any kind of private controversy and are not business competitors,” Christy said.
“… There is nothing ‘private’ about the STR controversy and Mr. Wu’s properties in particular. The very fact that the crowds and noise generated in “party houses” spill over from their walls and their vexatious neighbors demonstrate that this is not a “private controversy,” Christy said, adding that ” public records document the controversy in question via complaints for noise, real estate. Mr. Wu’s property, building permits and lawsuits.
“Mr. Wu was required to accurately identify the defamatory words contained in the Gentry Article, which he did not do, ”the judge said.
Between August 2, 2018 and March 21, 2019, tenants paid over $ 216,000 to stay at Wu’s property at 5763 W. Oakey Blvd., according to exhibits from his legal battles with Clark County that are included. in the anti-SLAPP motion.