It’s Not Nice to Accuse a Person of Insurance Fraud


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Tien Dung Tran, the owner of two YouTube channels, appealed from an order denying his special motion to strike plaintiffs Manh Van Truong (Mike) and Meiji Truong’s complaint pursuant to the anti-SLAPP statute. He contends plaintiffs’ claims, which include defamation and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, arise from protected activity because the statements he allegedly made on YouTube came after plaintiffs voluntarily put themselves in the public spotlight in the local Vietnamese-American community.

In Manh Van Truong et al. v. Tien Dung Tran, G061703, California Court of Appeals, August 29, 2023 the evidence did not demonstrate that the targeted comments were made in connection with an issue of public interest.


Plaintiffs and defendant are members of the Vietnamese-American community in Orange County, California. Plaintiffs own and operate several home improvement related businesses. Defendant owns two YouTube channels for which he creates video content. The complaint refers to defendant’s YouTube content as primarily “Vietnamese community gossip.”

Following purported statements made by defendant about plaintiffs on his YouTube channels, plaintiffs sued defendant for defamation.  The suit said the remarks conveyed the following about Mike that, among other things he committed insurance fraud; was a communist supporter who conspires with Vietnamese gangsters to attack America; among other things.

Nine days after plaintiffs filed an amended, more detailed, complaint, defendant filed a special motion to strike the complaint pursuant to the anti-SLAPP statute. On the first occasion, the day before the 2020 presidential election, Mike asked defendant and another highly viewed YouTube channel to come film. He agreed to have the interview livestreamed and the recording posted on defendant’s channel. The next day, Mike requested defendant remove the recorded content; defendant did so.

Following a hearing on the anti-SLAPP motion, the trial court issued an order denying it in full. Specifically, defendant did not show the alleged statements were made in connection with an issue of public interest.


Defendant asserts the trial court erroneously found the anti-SLAPP statute does not apply to plaintiffs’ claims. The court’s consideration of the anti-SLAPP motion was appropriate, notwithstanding the filing of the first amended complaint.

Litigation of an anti-SLAPP motion involves a two-step process.

  • the moving defendant bears the burden of establishing that the challenged allegations or claims arise from protected activity in which the defendant has engaged.
  • for each claim that does arise from protected activity, the plaintiff must show the claim has at least minimal merit.

If the plaintiff cannot make this showing, the court will strike the claim.

Contending the trial court erred in concluding the alleged statements fall outside the scope of the anti-SLAPP statute, defendant invokes two categories of protected activity.  Among the matters to consider are whether the subject of the speech or activity was a person or entity in the public eye or could affect large numbers of people beyond the direct participants.  Defendant contends plaintiffs were quasi-public figures in positions of prominence who actively sought public attention.

The defendant did not meet his burden of demonstrating the targeted statements fall within the scope of activity protected by the anti-SLAPP statute, the trial court properly denied his motion.


Accusing a self-made billionaire of insurance fraud and other criminal conduct is, on its face, defamatory. The Anti-Slap statute protects the publisher of such comments if the person accused is a protected activity. The attempt failed in the trial court and was affirmed by the Court of Appeal.

(c) 2023 Barry Zalma & ClaimSchool, Inc.

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About Barry Zalma

An insurance coverage and claims handling author, consultant and expert witness with more than 48 years of practical and court room experience.
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