LOS ANGELES – An author of horror fiction novels, who sued a critic alleging she libeled him on Twitter in 2021 by falsely saying he had sexually harassed multiple women, was ordered by a judge Thursday to pay the woman nearly $50,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs.
Lawyers for author Matt Hayward and reviewer Cassie Daley agreed without argument to a tentative ruling presented them during Thursday’s hearing before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kevin C. Brazile, who then finalized his decision awarding Daley $46,300 in attorneys’ fees and $1,765 in costs.
Brazile granted Daley’s motion on Nov. 8 to dismiss Hayward’s lawsuit on free-speech grounds.
In his November ruling, Brazile said Haward appeared to concede he had to prove Daley harbored actual malice against the plaintiff, but failed to do so. Even if Hayward was not an actual public figure, when statements involve a public issue, a private figure cannot obtain presumed and punitive damages absent a showing of actual malice, according to the judge.
“Here, (Hayward) has not presented evidence approaching the clear and convincing standard that (Daley) spoke with actual malice — that she knew it was false that (Hayward) harassed 20-plus people or that she said such with a reckless disregard of the truth,” the judge wrote.
Hayward’s lawsuit against Daley also alleged intentional infliction of emotional distress. That claim was dismissed as well.
In his suit filed in January 2022, Hayward sought general and special damages totaling $2.5 million, punitive damages and an injunction requiring Daley to delete the statement and not post similar remarks in the future.
“This matter concerns the egregious and completely false defamation of a highly respected and well-regarded author,” the suit stated. “Without any basis in fact, defendant Daley stated on Twitter that Hayward sexually harassed 20-plus women.”
Hayward, who lives in Ireland, maintained he suffered loss of business opportunities and harm to his reputation.
But in their court papers, Daley’s attorneys said Hayward sent “creepy and harassing sexual messages to numerous women online,” then later apologized for doing so.
“Now, apparently upset at facing the consequences of his own actions, he has sued Ms. Daley, who reviews horror novels and is a freelance artist, for truthfully speaking out about what happened to her,” Daley’s lawyers stated in their anti-SLAPP motion.
The state’s anti-SLAPP — Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation — law is intended to prevent people from using courts, and potential threats of a lawsuit, to intimidate those who are exercising their First Amendment rights.
In their court papers, Daley’s lawyers called Hayward’s lawsuit “frivolous” and stated the truth of Daley’s statements can be seen in Hayward’s own words, both publicly and in unsolicited sexual messages he allegedly sent Daley as well as other women.
Daley maintained in a sworn declaration that the statements that Hayward deemed libelous were responses to messages that he sent her in 2019.
“Mr. Hayward would send me creepy, sexual messages — and that he couldn’t help it because I was `just incredibly hot,”‘ Daley stated.