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Libel and Slander: Defamation in Florida

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Defamation – Libel & Slander in Florida

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In Florida,the Florida courts have defined what must be shown in order to win a libel or slander (defamation) lawsuit under Florida law. According to the Florida Supreme Court in the case of Jews for Jesus, Inc. v. Rapp, 997 So. 2d 1098, 1106 (Fla. 2008), the elements of defamation are:

  • publication;
  • falsity;
  • actor must act with knowledge or reckless disregard as to the falsity on a matter concerning a public [figure], or at least negligently on a matter concerning a private person;
  • actual damages; and
  • statement must be defamatory.

Where the statement was said or written (published) can be in a wide variety of places. Our law firm represents those who have been defamed in all sorts of ways, including statements made in:

  1. Magazines
  2. Newspapers
  3. Blogs, Websites, Forums, and other online Internet sources
  4. E-mails
  5. Speeches
  6. Public meetings including condominium & HOA meetings
  7. Television Broadcasts
  8. Radio Broadcasts

Written Statements on the Web Can Be “Internet Libel”

Defamation that is written is called libel. On the internet, a statement that “defames” or harms someone’s reputation (a/k/a cyber defamation), can occur in all sorts of web locations:

  • Online reviews
  • Yelp
  • Forums
  • Blog posts
  • Comments to media articles
  • Comments to blog posts
  • Website pages
  • Facebook posts
  • Facebook comments
  • LinkedIn posts
  • LinkedIn comments
  • Google+ posts
  • Google+ comments
  • Twitter tweets

State and Federal Laws Apply to Florida Defamation (libel, slander) Lawsuits

When someone files a defamation of character lawsuit in Florida, they must look to both state and federal law for guidance. These laws include: 

1. The Federal Communications Decency Act

Passed in 1996, the Federal Communications Decency Act had portions of its language struck down in 1997 by the United States Supreme Court because the High Court found the part of the law that provided for criminal prosecution of websites deemed “unfit for children,” but the part of the FCDA that remained provides that Florida and other states can have state laws that prohibit as defamation any sexually-oriented material found to be “patently offensive under local community standards” unless the publisher of those statements can show them to have “redeeming social value.”

Of particular importance to Internet users is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides that “[n]o provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

Section 230 controls over state law and states that “[n]o cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this section.” 

2. The Federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act 

The Federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) was passed in 1986 and is controversial today because it is applied to internet communications which many (like the ACLU) argue did not exist then and should not be covered by this 25+ year-old legislation. The ECPA acts to allow the government to collect internet information via websites, search engines, and more. For details, check out the ACLU’s position page on this federal law. 

3. Florida Statute 770 et seq (related to Libel Cases) 

The Florida Legislature has passed a law that deals specifically with written forms of defamation (libel). Chapter 770 of the Florida Statutes provides that before a defamation lawsuit can be brought, the party alleging defamation must give 5 days notice of his claim to the defendant and the law also gives specific steps that can be undertaken prior to litigation by the defendant to avoid the suit if his or her statements were, among other things, made in good faith.

For more information, please read our blog coverage of defamation of character issues which includes the following posts:

Defamation Lawsuits in Florida

Defamation Claims in Florida 

Defamation Per Se: When Libel or Slander Is So Bad, Do You Need Evidence of Damages Before Punitive Damages Can Be Awarded?

Can You Be Sued for an Anonymous Review? Yes. Will They Win? Maybe, Maybe Not.

Florida Defamation Lawsuits: Defenses to Libel and Slander Claims Seeking Defamation Damages Under Florida Law

Can You Sue for a Bad Review? Sure. Libel, Slander, and Defamation Lawsuits for Negative Reviews 

Read all of our defamation articles here. 

Board Certified Trial Expert

Alan Sackrin’s 30 years of experience handling Florida personal injury cases makes him qualified to handle even the most complicated cases. Alan is a Board Certified civil trial lawyer which means he is a trial specialist and an expert in personal injury matters. A simple call puts you in contact with a committed, local attorney who will handle all aspects of your matter and work hard to help you get what you deserve. Alan will fight for your rights if you have suffered harm at hands of others in injury matters in South Florida and throughout the state of Florida. If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of another person, contact Alan Sackrin, an experienced South Florida Personal Injury Attorney, today for a free consultation. 

Get A Free Case Evaluation By An Experienced Defamation Lawyer – Call (954) 458-8655 

Contact Alan Sackrin to find out how he can help you. You can contact him by phone at 954-458-8655 or by e-mail through this website to schedule an appointment and learn more about your rights from a South Florida personal injury lawyer. He offers a free initial consultation. 

Want to Know More?

To learn more about Alan, see: Personal Injury Lawyer


In The Press:

Alan Sackrin contributed to a Bloomberg article regarding cyber defamation and the lower burden of proof for a plaintiff in Florida to recover damages. Read the article here  


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