HOUSTON – State District Judge Steven Kirkland agreed with Ashish Mahendru, lawyer for Cheryl Conley in a defamation suit filed by Landry’s Inc. over treatment of white tigers at the Downtown Aquarium, when the judge refused to reconsider his dismissal of the Landry’s lawsuit against Ms. Conley and the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Last month the judge dismissed the defamation lawsuit filed against Ms. Conley who complained to the animal defend fund about the treatment of rare white tigers caged at Houston’s Downtown Aquarium, which is owned by Landry’s Inc. restaurants. The case was tossed out under the Texas’ anti-SLAPP law which prevents strategic lawsuits against public participation. Such laws enable judges to dismiss meritless lawsuits filed against citizens who speak out about matters of public concern. The judge also ordered Landry’s to pay $450,000 in penalties and an additional $174,000 in legal fees to deter the company from filing such lawsuits in the future.
In the national legal news service Law360 story “Judge Nixes New Trial Bid In Tiger Welfare Defamation Row” (subscription required), Mr. Mahendru said Judge Kirkland was “nonplused” by Landry’s request, characterizing it as “a regurgitation” of its earlier arguments. “It certainly didn’t add to Landry’s credibility before the court in the way it went about seeking rehearing from the court,” he said.
In asking that the judge reconsider “Landry’s has argued that the sanctions were “off the rails” for a company without prior history of sanctionable conduct and which brought the case in good faith to defend its reputation and the reputation of its animal caregivers. It also told the court in filings that the restaurant has an unblemished record of compliance and the tigers have no medical problems.” Law360 reported.
Ms. Conley, a Montgomery County woman who saw the tigers’ behind-closed-doors cages at the downtown facility, was represented by Houston lawyers Mr. Mahendru and Darren Braun of Mahendru P.C.
The case was initially covered in the Houston Press story “Landry’s Must Pay Animal Welfare Group Over White Tiger Dispute”, the Houston Chronicle story “Judge tosses defamation lawsuit over Landry’s tigers“, the Law360 story “Restaurant Sanctioned In Defamation Suit Over Tiger Welfare” subscription required), and the Forbes magazine story “ExxonMobil Wins An Anti-SLAPP Motion In Texas, While Landry’s Loses.”
The lawsuit is Landry’s, Inc. and the Downtown Aquarium, Inc. v. Animal Legal Defense Fund et al.No. 2016-79698 in Harris County’s 334th District Court.
Mahendru P.C. is a boutique commercial litigation firm whose attorneys are known for their tenacity, intelligence and experience. Founded in 2001, the firm has a simple philosophy: Your problem is our problem. We adopt it, understand it and solve it. Our objective is to resolve every case in the best, fastest and most cost-efficient manner possible. We never wait for our opponent’s next move, which means we spend a lot of time at the courthouse and are well-known there.