Appeal from the 22nd Judicial District Court,
Parish of St. Tammany, State of Louisiana Trial Court No.
2016-10080 The Honorable Scott Gardner, Judge Presiding
Richard Ducote Covington, Louisiana Attorney for
Plaintiff/Appellant, Kacie Magee Breen
Spell Covington, Louisiana Attorney for Defendants/
Appellees, Dianne Arndt and Amanda Terrell
R. Nieset, Jr. Kristopher M. Gould Kelsey L. Jarrett New
Orleans, Louisiana Attorneys for Defendant/Appellee, Desiree
BEFORE: GUIDRY, PETTIGREW, AND CRAIN, JJ.
an appeal of a judgment granting a special motion to strike,
filed pursuant to Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article
971, and dismissing the plaintiffs defamation claims against
certain defendants. We affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
March 1, 2015, Kacie Magee Breen shot and killed her husband,
Wayne Breen, a St. Tammany Parish physician. She maintains
she was defending herself from an attack and reasonably
believed she was in imminent danger of death or great bodily
harm. Following the shooting, local media attention focused
on Dr. Breen's death, the St. Tammany Parish
coroner's classification of the death as a homicide, the
criminal investigation that resulted in Breen not being
arrested, charged, indicted, or prosecuted for her
husband's death, and Breen's actions related to Dr.
January 2016, Breen filed suit alleging the defendants
defamed her in internet posts commenting about events before,
at the time of, and after Dr. Breen's death. She claimed
all the statements about her, including those calling her a
murderer, were false and caused her shame, humiliation,
discomfort, loss of reputation, public ridicule, loss of
income, and mental anguish.
of the defendants, Dianne Arndt, Desiree Waguespack Maestri,
and Amanda Terrell, filed a special motion to strike
Breen's claims. They asserted the statements attributed
to them were expressions of opinion made without knowing or
reckless falsity about a matter of public concern and,
therefore, are protected by the free speech guarantees of
both the United States and Louisiana constitutions. The
defendants claimed their statements were made while
discussing and sharing views on closed internet sites
dedicated to discussing Dr. Breen's death, and following
news reports that Breen would not be arrested for killing
him. They argued Breen's suit is meritless and was
brought to chill their exercise of free speech. Breen opposed
the special motion to strike, arguing the motion is
inapplicable to this suit because the defendants'
statements were not made about an issue of public interest,
and she was not and is not a public figure.
trial court granted the special motion to strike in favor of
Arndt and Maestri and denied it as to Terrell. Breen appeals
the judgment dismissing her claims against Arndt and
filed an "answering brief on appeal, " seeking
review of the denial of her special motion to strike and
asking this court to modify, revise, or reverse the judgment
to conform it with the ruling in favor of Arndt and Maestri.
An appellee desiring to have a judgment modified, revised, or
reversed must answer the appeal and state the relief demanded
not later than fifteen days after the return day or the
lodging of the record, whichever is later. La. Code Civ. Pro.
art. 2133. Here, the return date was November 30, 2016. The
record was lodged December 6, 2016. Terrell filed her
answering brief January 3, 2017, more than fifteen days after
the lodging date. Consequently, Terrell's answer to
Breen's appeal was untimely. We find no merit to
Terrell's assertion that supplementation of the appellate
record with an amended judgment affected the date of
lodging. Accordingly, Terrell's answer to
Breen's appeal is dismissed.