Defamation generally includes libel and slander. Libel consists of any defamation in print, while slander consists of defamatory comments which are oral. In Florida, to recover for libel or slander, a plaintiff must demonstrate that (1) the defendant published a false statement; (2) about the plaintiff; (3) to someone other then the person being defamed; and (4) the plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the publication.
Some common examples of defamation include communications that (i) impute a serious crime involving moral turpitude or a felony; (ii) expose a plaintiff to hatred; (iii) reflect negatively on the plaintiff’s character, morality, or integrity; (iv) impair the plaintiff’s financial well-being; and (v) suggest that the plaintiff suffers from a physical or mental defect that would cause others to refrain from associating with the plaintiff. Defamation must do more than merely annoy, embarrass or hurt someone’s feelings.
There are generally four main defenses to defamation, which include privilege, truth, consent, and fair comment or opinion. Some of the privileges include (1) judicial proceedings; (2) legislative proceedings; (3) some executive statements and publications; (4) publications between spouses; and (5) publications required by law. Opinion is often a measure of great debate. Generally, one must prove that the opinion is one that a reasonable person could come to. Of course, there is a balance that must be reached with actionable speech compared to speech protected by First Amendment.
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