Legal Memorandum: Defamation in FL

Issue: What is the general law in Florida regarding defamation?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Defamation; Civil action for libel; Malice
Jurisdiction: Florida
Cited Cases: 31 So. 2d 382; 397 So. 2d 1148; 826 So. 2d 534; 344 So. 2d 279
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 06/01/2006

Florida law is well-established that a plaintiff has a civil action for libel when there has been a false and unprivileged statement by letter or otherwise that exposes the plaintiff “‘to distrust, hatred, contempt, ridicule or obloquy or which causes such person to be avoided, or which has a tendency to injure such person in his office, occupation, business or employment.'”  Thomas v. Jacksonville Television, Inc., 699 So. 2d 800, 803, 22 Fla. L. Weekly D2287 (Dist. Ct. App. 1997) (quoting Cooper v. Miami Publ’g Co., 159 Fla. 296, 31 So. 2d 382, 384 (1947)).

When the words are such as to tend to degrade the person about whom they are spoken, to bring him or her into ill repute or cause similar injury, that language is actionable per seLundquist v. Alewine, 397 So. 2d 1148, 1149 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1981).  Similarly, “[s]poken words falsely imputing a criminal offense to another are actionable per se.”  Bobenhausen v. Cassat Ave. Mobile Homes, Inc., 344 So. 2d 279, 281 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1977).  Accord Bass v. Rivera, 826 So. 2d 534, 535, 27 Fla. L. Weekly D2130 (Dist. Ct. App. 2002).  Malice may be presumed by the per se nature of the language.  Lundquist, 397 So. 2d at 1149.  See Bobenhausen, 344 So. 2d at 283 (the defendant’s admission that he told several persons that he fired the plaintiff because the […]

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