A foreign national breaks free of an abusive arranged marriage
An American doctor brought a Pakistani woman to the United States for an arranged marriage and proceeded to abuse her physically, sexually and emotionally. When she sought help from a shelter, he turned to the courts to bring her back; that’s when her protectors fought back by turning to Manatt.
The husband filed an action against his wife asserting, among other things, that she misrepresented her “bona fide” intent to marry. He also claimed she committed slander by filing the domestic violence petition. His goal wasn’t to win the case, but instead to bury her with legal bills so that she would give up and return to his house and control. This strategy is called a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP).
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, one of Manatt’s long-standing partners, asked Manatt for help, and our team of Adrianne Marshack, Yuri Mikulka, Kristin Haule, Caleb Bean and former associate Eric Chen jumped in to help. They successfully filed an anti-SLAPP motion on the grounds that our client’s statements related to seeking protection from her husband qualified as protected speech.
The doctor doubled down and added the legal aid organization and one of our client’s attorneys to his lawsuit, claiming defamation. Manatt successfully filed a second anti-SLAPP motion relating to the defamation claims, and demurred the doctor’s remaining claims of fraud and breach of contract. The court sustained both demurrers, agreeing that an “I do” to marriage did not mean our client also accepted the terms of an abusive relationship, let alone financial liability for any gifts given to her.
After sustaining a full dismissal of all the claims, Manatt also obtained two separate orders for recovery of attorneys’ fees, which will be donated to the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.