Vic Mignogna was dealt a major blow by a Dallas District Court judge on Monday as Judge John Chupp issued a final judgement in Mignogna's failed defamation lawsuits that ordered the Dragon Ball Super: Broly voice actor to pay his defendants' legal fees (plus some additional sanctions) - a total of $238,042.42.
Mignogna had filed suits against Funimation, the anime dubbing and distribution company which had employed him until early this year, along with two other voice actors (Monica Rial and Jamie Marchi) and the fiancee of Rial, Ronald Toye, who all made public statements regarding sexual harassment allegations against Mignogna. The suits had all been dismissed under a Texas statute which allowed the defendants to recover legal fees as well as let the court impose sanctions on litigants who were determined to have filed a so-called "SLAPP suit."
SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. It refers to lawsuits designed specifically to silence critics of an individual or an organization by forcing the critics to go to court to defend their actions. SLAPP suits are not typically meant to be won, per se, but rather to keep critics busy with lawyers and court fees and also to intimidate any other critics from stepping forward, for fear that they will be sued as well. A number of states, such as Texas, have come up with specific laws to combat these types of lawsuits. Texas' law is called the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA). Judge Chupp had dismissed all four lawsuits under the TCPA.
Last week, Chupp heard testimony from Mignogna as to whether the suits did qualify as SLAPP suits. Mignogna defended his filings, claiming that he felt that he had no other avenue, as his career was falling apart in the wake of the allegations against him. He argued that the suits couldn't have been intended to silence his critics, since so many people had continued to criticize him.
Chupp did not find Mignogna's arguments persuasive, although he did not award the nearly $800,000 that the defendants requested. Instead, he awarded Funimation $57,504 in legal fees, Rial and Toye $115,526.96 in legal fees and Marchi $50,011.46 in legal fees. In addition, Chupp sanctioned Mignogna $5,000 for each claim, adding an extra $15,000 to the judgement.
Mignogna is likely to appeal the decision, but part of Chupp's judgement also included the additional legal fees that each of the defendants would recover if Mignogna fails at these future appeals, as well. The fees awarded could reach roughly $370,00 in total if Mignogna exhausts his appeals and loses at each step of the appeals process.