Protecting Florida’s Defamation Victims
While America’s first amendment legally protects our right to free speech, the defamation laws enacted in the 1700s protects people from untruths that harm their reputations. If your reputation has been hurt by someone writing or speaking something false about you, you may be eligible to file a civil suit against them.
What Is Defamation?
In Florida, defamation is defined as a false statement made about the plaintiff to a third party either verbally (slander) or in writing (libel), and this statement injured the plaintiff in some way. Florida allows lawsuits to file for damage due to defamation through civil tort cases. Statements considered defamation could be something published in the media, or even emails or text message exchanges. In Florida, businesses can also file for commercial defamation.
Slander can be intentional or the result of negligence, meaning even if someone spoke slander ignorantly, they could still be tried if their statement(s) injured someone else. A few slander examples are making false statements about a person or business in public where others can overhear or in meetings where others are present. Slander can happen anywhere people are talking, and it is harder to prove than libel.
Due to its written nature, libel is easier to see. The onus remains on the attorney to prove that what was written was done so in an attempt to be malicious or harmful to the subject. Examples of libel include:
- Social media posts that share misinformation about an individual or company
- Deliberately writing false information that is displayed publicly about a business or its competitors
- Making public, written accusations
Proving libel has 5 basic elements. First, the plaintiff has to verify that the misinformation was published, that they were identified either directly or indirectly, that the written information was defamatory and false, and that it is the defendant’s fault that the falsity was published.
With the advent of the internet and social media platforms, there are rife opportunities to commit or witness libel.
Types of Defamation Suits
Because the feeling you have been defamed is often subjective, and Florida laws regarding defamation are complex and not easily understandable, proving defamation can be challenging.
This is where Florida’s per se concept applies. This concept means that damages to your reputation resulting from defamation are clear, and the plaintiff’s harm is assumed because defamation itself is inherently illegal without requiring any extrinsic proof of surrounding circumstances. Statutes, and constitution or case law designate per se acts.
Per Quod is defamation in which plaintiffs have to supply an allegation and show evidence, called extrinsic evidence, to the courts that the defendant’s statement was defamatory. Plaintiffs have to estimate the damages they have suffered or perceived to have suffered due to the defamation.
The third type of defamation law in Florida is “defamation by implication,” which occurs when someone makes a true statement but within a malevolent context that causes false impressions about someone’s character or business. This type differs from the previous because, in this case, the defaming statement is admittedly true.
The Florida Long-Arm Statute
This statute pronounces that if a party commits what can be considered defamation online and that defamatory statement is viewed by a third party in Florida, the original person who made the defamatory statement can be held liable and subjected to Florida’s defamation law.
Florida’s Recognized Defamation Damages
Florida recognizes two types of damages caused by defamation, compensatory or actual damages, and punitive damages. Compensatory or actual damages are the loss of customers, reputation, employment, relationships, or businesses. Punitive damages are those that are awarded solely to punish the defamer and discourage future defamatory acts.
Have You Suffered From Defamation in Florida?
If you or someone you love has experienced damages from defamation in Florida, you need an experienced law firm on your side. At Meldon Law, we understand the harmful impact defamation can have on your life and livelihood. We have the necessary experience and resources to tackle these challenging cases—and win.
Our Meldon Law personal injury lawyers offer free initial consultations and case evaluations, so you can get the answers you need. We also work on a contingency basis, so you do not owe us any money unless we can collect compensation for you. To explore your legal options and begin fighting for your rights, call us at 800-373-8000 or fill out our confidential contact form today to get started.