Judge John P. Chupp of the Tarrant County District Court announced on Monday his final judgment in voice actor Vic Mignogna’s lawsuit against voice actresses Monica Rial and Jamie Marchi, Rial’s fiance Ron Toye, and Funimation. The judge ruled that Mignogna must pay US$223,042.42 in attorneys’ fees to the defendants. The judgment also ordered him to pay US$15,000 in sanctions, for a total of US$238,042.42. Additionally, the judgment listed US$287,500 in contingent fees that Mignogna may have to pay if he chooses to appeal.
Rial and Toye filed a request for findings of fact and conclusions of law with the Tarrant County District Court on Tuesday.
Judge Chupp oversaw a hearing on November 21 to decide the attorneys’ fees, costs, and other expenses owed by Mignogna.
Funimation had filed a motion on November 4 for reasonable attorneys’ fees, costs, and sanctions for the lawsuit. Rial, Toye, and Marchi filed similar motions on the same day. The total of Funimation, Rial, Toye, and Marchi’s requested attorneys’ fees and costs — excluding conditional fees and contingent fees — was US$507,879.55. The total sanctions the defendants requested accounted for at least an additional US$175,000.
The motions argued that the defendants are entitled to recover their attorneys’ fees and costs from Mignogna under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA). The motions included copies of invoices that detailed the requested fees and costs.
Rial, Marchi, Toye, and Funimation filed a motion on October 24 to dismiss Mignogna’s appeal for review of the Tarrant County District Court’s decision to dismiss Mignogna’s claims against the defendants.
Judge Chupp dismissed 17 of Mignogna’s claims between two separate rulings on September 6 and October 4. Mignogna’s remaining case had alleged that Rial and Toye engaged in defamation and civil conspiracy against the Fullmetal Alchemist voice actor and that anime licensing company Funimation defamed him.
The court found that all causes of action against all defendants asserted by Mignogna were based on, related to, or were in response to the defendants’ right to free speech, the right to petition, or the right to association under the TCPA, the state’s measure to protect against SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) lawsuits. In addition, communications related to Mignogna’s causes of action related to a public concern, and the communications involved allegations of conduct by Mignogna that relate to health and safety, environmental, economic, or community well-being. The court also found that Mignogna had failed to establish, by clear and specific evidence, a prima facie case for each element of defamation, tortious interference with existing contracts, tortious interference with prospective business relations, and civil conspiracy against all defendants, as well as vicarious liabilty against Funimation.
When a defendant successfully invokes the TCPA during a lawsuit, the plaintiff must pay court costs, attorneys’ fees, and other expenses resulting from defending against the lawsuit. The court must also issue a fine to the plaintiff that is “sufficient to deter the party who brought the legal action from bringing similar actions…”
Judge Chupp dismissed all of Mignogna’s case against voice actress Marchi on September 6 as well as Mignogna’s case of tortious interference of existing contracts and tortious interference of business relations allegations against Rial and Toye on September 6. Chupp also dismissed Mignogna’s allegations that Funimation participated in tortious interference and civil conspiracy on September 6.
Mignogna is represented by Ty Beard of Beard Harris Bullock Christie and An Lee Hsu of the Martinez Hsu law firm. Marchi is represented by Sam Johnson of Johnson Sparks. Rial and Toye are represented by J. Sean Lemoine and Ethan Minshull of Wick Phillips, Casey S. Erick of Cowles & Thompson, and Andrea Perez of Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal. Funimation is represented by John Volney of Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst.