Silver & Wright LLP is pleased to share that in November the Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the City of Chino and two of its code and law enforcement officers in the tort lawsuit, Barth v. City of Chino, et al. The tort lawsuit was originally adjudged in favor of the City and its employees by the trial court when the Court granted their Anti-SLAPP Motion, establishing that the tort lawsuit was aimed to infringe on the City’s and its employee’s constitutional rights during their code and law enforcement efforts. The Court of Appeal agreed.
Underlying the tort lawsuit was a series of critical facts, including: Mr. Robin Barth, was illegally operating his First Choice Ready Mix Corporation (8899 McCarty Road in Chino) concrete batch -plant in a flood zone in the City of Chino; the City had filed a nuisance abatement against Mr. Barth, his business, and the landowner where the company was operating to halt the illegal business and related nuisance conditions it posed; the named code enforcement officer had been monitoring the property in light of the nuisance action; the code enforcement officer reported to the police that Mr. Barth had threatened him and city staff in February 2020.
On this last point, the code enforcement officer noted: that while he was performing an inspection from inside of his vehicle, Barth drove up in a truck and blocked him in. During the incident, Barth threatened the officer saying, “I will go postal – and that is not a threat, it’s a promise,” if the city didn’t stop “harassing him.” It doesn’t end there; as the code enforcement officer fled, Barth jumped inside of his vehicle, aggressively tailing the fleeing officer and honking at him through city streets. The code enforcement officer called 911 and fled to the Chino Police Department, where he reported the incident.
Subsequently, Barth was arrested by Detective Beckman upon investigation of the incident and released without incident, but not charged with any crime by the DA. In March 2020, the City obtained a restraining order against Barth for his threats. Separately, and later in 2021 the City obtained a preliminary injunction against him, his business and the landowner in the underlying nuisance abatement lawsuit and got a receiver appointed to ensure the property was remediated by the landowner, who finally stepped in.
In March 2021, Barth sued the City, the code enforcement officer, and the investigating/arresting police officer for $25,000,000 in damages for false arrest, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress arising from the code enforcement officer’s reporting to the police of the incident and the police officer’s decision to investigate and arrest Barth based on that report.
“When Barth sued the three parties, we knew that the City would be protected by the Anti-SLAPP statute given that the lawsuit was targeted at the city and its officers’ protected speech and activities, including the fundamental right of victims to report to the police potential crimes and the discretion afforded police for their investigations and arrest pursuant to probable cause (which police had). We also knew the lawsuit had no merit, which we proved to the Court in the Anti-SLAPP Motion, as required by law. Thus, we ultimately were able to defeat his lawsuit and obtain an award of the City’s attorney’s fees spent in defending against his claims to protect taxpayer dollars. Though Barth appealed, the Court of Appeal sided with the City and its code and law enforcement officers. We are so glad to have helped the City and officers achieve this outcome.”
PARTNER VALERIE ESCALANTE TROESH
The Barth v. City of Chino, et al. case proves that while it’s not possible to prevent retaliatory lawsuits and false narratives, it is possible to prevail with the truth in court.
Congratulations to the City of Chino and its hard-working officers.