MICKEY McGUINNESS QUINLAN, MACKEY SUGAR QUINLAN AND CHARLES BRIAN SUGAR Plaintiff- 2nd Appellant
MELISSA SUGAR-GOLD Defendant-1st Appellant
from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of
Caddo, Louisiana Lower Court Case No. 574, 162, Honorable
Craig O. Marcotte, Judge.
PESNELL LAW FIRM, By: Billy R. Pesnell, Counsel for 1st
McMICHAEL, MEDLIN, D'ANNA, WEDGEWORTH & LAFARGUE,
LLC, By: James C. McMichael, Jr. Anna M. Brown Priestley,
Counsel for 2nd Appellant.
BROWN, WILLIAMS, and PITMAN, JJ.
plaintiffs, Mickey McGuinness Quinlan, Mackey Sugar Quinlan
and Charles Brian Sugar, appeal the district court's
ruling which granted a special motion to strike filed by the
defendant, Melissa Sugar Gold. The defendant has appealed the
district court's denial of attorney fees and costs. For
the following reasons, we affirm in part, reverse in part and
remand with instructions.
parties are the members of the same family. The plaintiff,
Charles Sugar, is the biological son of Alan Sugar
("Alan Sugar"); the defendant, Melissa Sugar Gold, is
Alan's adopted daughter. The plaintiff, Mackey Quinlan, is
the niece of Charles and Melissa; Mickey Quinlan is Mackey
January 17, 2013, the defendant authored an article entitled
"Elder Abuse and Betrayal of Trust" ("the
Elder Abuse article"). The article was published on
fictiontoolbox.blogspot.com. In the Elder Abuse article, the
defendant referenced another article that had been published
on sugaroilcompany.blogspot.com, and stated, "I
don't know who authored it. It's not hard to deduce
that someone in my family (one of us who love[s] my dad and
are [sic] not just waiting for him to die so we can swoop in
for our inheritance), must have penned it."
Additionally, in the Elder Abuse article, the defendant
commended the author of another article that had been
published on sugaroilcompany.blogspot.com, by stating,
"[T]o whomever wrote it, [g]ood for you. Those greedy,
phony vultures needed to be exposed." The remainder of
the "Elder Abuse" article provided:
happens to families when they think they might inherit some
money? I've always heard stories about it, but never
believed I would witness such greed directed at my own father
The past two months have been chock-full of family illnesses,
hospitalizations and most disturbingly, a case of what my
immediate family and I believe to be more than just plain ole
greed, something more sinister. Indeed, [e]lder abuse. Sadly,
my father, who is in his mid-eighties and currently in the
hospital and very ill, is the intended victim.
Mickey, Mackey, Chucky: "Here [sign] this paper.
It's just a simple for[m] for your taxes."
You'll be dead by the time your wife realized we just had
you sign over your entire estate and wealth to us. Oops. Alan
Sugar didn't build that empire by being an idiot. He
figured it out, and he ain't dead. I don't envy the
wrath that awaits anyone, devious enough to trick an old man
into signing away the rights to his company, home and
livelihood. If the courts don't get you - God sure will.
in the article, the defendant proceeded to define the term
"elder abuse" and stated, "The disturbing part
of that definition and of what Chuck Sugar, Dr. Mackey Sugar
Quinlan and Mickey Quinlan did to my father is
'Trust.' Betrayal of an elder man's trust, is
vile." Further, the defendant posed the following
question, "Do any of you have any experience with elder
abuse?, " and proceeded to recount a story she had been
told by an unnamed man whose father had allegedly been the
victim of elder abuse.
January 21, 2014, the plaintiffs filed a petition for
injunctive relief and for damages, alleging that the
defendant "had written and published false and
defamatory statements" about them in the Elder Abuse
article and two similar articles that had been published on
two different websites, sugaroilcompany.blogspot.com and
sugarfamilysecrets.blogspot.com. The plaintiffs sought to
recover damages for defamation and/or intentional infliction
of emotional distress. The plaintiffs also sought an
injunction and a court order requiring the defendant to
remove the alleged defamatory publications from the Internet.
March 7, 2014, the plaintiffs filed an amended petition,
which included the following specific allegations:
3. On January 17, 2013, an article entitled "Elder Abuse
and Betrayal of Trust" was published by Defendant on
fictiontoolbox.blogspot.com. This article alleges that
Defendant's father, Alan Sugar (hereinafter
"Alan") is the victim of elder abuse at the hands
of all three Petitioners.
The article continued to allege that the Petitioners preyed
on Alan to gain control of his company and compared their
alleged actions to those of a con artist.
4. The internet domain
sugaroilcompany.blogspot.com leads to a website titled
"Sugar Family Saga, Sugar Oil Co. & The Sugar
Family: Secrets, Lies & Betrayals Revealed." This
entire website appears to have been created for the sole
purpose of defaming Petitioners.
5. On or about January 20, 2013, an article titled "How
Mickey Quinlan Took Control of Sugar Oil Company: How Was
Alan Sugar Coerced Into Signing Away Everything He
Owned" was published by Defendant on
sugaroilcompany.blogspot.com. This article again alleges that
the Petitioners participated in elder abuse towards Alan
Sugar, stating "[a]buse of wealthy elderly parents by
their greedy adult children and other relatives is as common
as sin" and linking to an article about the alleged
elder abuse of Brooke Astor. The article continues to allege
that Petitioners were untrustworthy, lied to Alan to coerce
him into doing something he did not want to do, and led a
"crusade to take all of Alan's money and
property." The article concludes with a promise to
reveal other stories of "betrayals of family" on
6. The internet domain sugarfamilysecrets.blogspot.com leads
to a website titled "Sugar & Shit: Unbelievable Saga
of Christian Counselor Son and Ungrateful Grandchildren
Taking Money from Elder Relative." Again, this entire
website appears to have been created for the sole purpose of
defaming Petitioners. There are links on the website to pages
titled "Sugar Sham, " "Chuck Sugar, "
"Elder Abuse, " and "Doctors w/ Morals."
7. On or about July 31, 2013, an article titled "The
unSugar Family-The Greedy Bunch" was posted on
sugarfamilysecrets.blogspot.com. The first sentence reads:
"Thank you Greedy Bunch: Chuck Sugar, Dr. Mackey Sugar
Quinlan, Dr. Scott Sugar, Mickey Quinlan (new title president
of Sugar Oil)." This article alleges that Petitioner
Charles Sugar is a hypocrite, a drug addict, and a
homosexual. These allegations are particularly injurious to
Charles Sugar because he makes his living as a Licensed
Professional Counselor by practicing "Christian
Counseling, " wherein he counsels patients from a
8. On the Sugar & Shit website, the "About"
page contains three paragraphs that allege Petitioner Charles
Sugar is a homosexual thief and imply [sic] that Petitioner
Mackey Sugar Quinlan is an immoral, incompetent physician.
7, 2014, the defendant filed peremptory exceptions of no
cause of action and prescription. In the pleadings, the
defendant admitted that she had authored and published the
Elder Abuse article on fictiontoolbox.blogspot.com. However,
she "categorically den[ied]" writing and/or
publishing the articles on sugaroilcompany.blogspot.com and
defendant also filed a special motion to strike the
plaintiffs' petition, pursuant to La. C.C.P. art. 971.
She argued as follows: she published the Elder Abuse article
on her blog "in the exercise of her right to free speech
in connection with an issue of public interest, namely elder
abuse"; in the article, she expressly invited the public
to comment and offer their opinions regarding the issue of
elder abuse; the statements made in the article were her own
personal opinions and are protected by the First Amendment to
the United States Constitution; and the defendants failed to
allege fault (actual malice or negligence) sufficient to
create a triable issue. The defendant also requested an award
of reasonable attorney fees and costs.
in support of the motion to strike, the defendant submitted
an affidavit, in which she attested as follows:
She is the author of the article entitled "Elder Abuse
and Betrayal of Trust" which was published on
She did not author or publish the articles on
sugaroilcompany.blogspot.com and she has no ...