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Florida Defamation and Slander Laws

Fiol Law Group|Posted in Lawsuits on November 2, 2018

While not causing physical injuries, defamation and slander against an individual can still wreak havoc on someone’s life. A victim of defamation may lose his or her job, have trouble finding work, or suffer psychological stress from false claims. Those who suffer from these actions can potentially recover financial compensation in Florida. The state’s statutes have many laws related to defamation and slander.

What Constitutes Defamation and Slander in Florida?

Defamation of character under Florida law consists of four major elements:

  • The publication of a false statement by the defendant
  • The false statement was about the plaintiff
  • The defendant published the false statement to a third party
  • The statement caused injury or damage to the plaintiff

An action must meet all four of these requirements to be an act of slander or defamation, and missing any of these elements will disqualify the act as grounds for a lawsuit. For example, if someone published a false statement about you, but it didn’t cause you any damage like losing your job, you would likely not have a claim.

Torts of defamation fall into two major categories:

  • Slander is spoken communication of false statements
  • Libel is written publication of false statements

While many people use these terms interchangeably, they legally refer to two distinct instances of defamation. It is possible for someone to commit both slander and libel against the same individual, though the victim would only need to file one lawsuit against these actions.

What Are the Statutes of Limitations for Defamation Claims?

Most types of torts have statutes of limitations, which is a time limit for how long a claim is valid. For cases of defamation, Florida law sets the statute of limitations for two years after the incident of defamation. If you plan to file a claim of defamation but miss the two-year time limit, you risk having the court dismiss your case, thus losing your right to compensation.

What Is the “Single Publication Rule” in Defamation Claims?

In the cases of publication of books, magazines, and newspaper, defamatory material may appear in multiple copies. Rather than allowing plaintiffs to file a claim for every piece of material that contains defamatory statements, the “single publication rule” limits the scope of such claims, restricting lawsuits to the first instance of defamatory material. The purpose of the rule is to help prevent excessive numbers of lawsuits from clogging up the court system.

Florida law applies this rule to its defamation cases. For victims of defamation, this rule means that plaintiffs can only file against the original source of the defamatory material. The single publication rule also prevents the statute of limitations from resetting with each subsequent publication. If defamatory material originally appeared in a magazine in January 2017, then later in October of the same year, the statute of limitations would last only to January of 2019, not October 2019.

However, the single publication rule does not always apply the same way to defamatory statements made over the internet. In the case of Rudloe v. Karl, the court upheld the single publication rule in relation to internet content. However, the court since withdrew the opinion, not leaving much ground to establish legal precedent. If you experience defamation through the internet, the single publication rule may or may not apply.

Can Florida Courts Handle an Out-of-State Defamation Claim?

Since Florida maintains a long-arm statute, its courts can have jurisdiction over out-of-state defendants who commit certain acts within the state. This can include acts of defamation.

Defamatory statements made online can also fall under the jurisdiction of Florida courts; however, a third party in Florida must access the online statements for this to be the case. If such an event occurs, the out-of-state defendant is subject to Florida law.

Cases of defamation and slander can severely impact victims’ lives, and the complex legal matters involved can make it difficult to appropriately navigate a case. To best protect your rights as a victim of defamation, consider hiring an attorney to help you through the litigation process.