As a business owner in Florida (or anywhere else, for that matter), it’s important to understand the facts of online business defamation so that you can protect your company. Over the past few months here on the Weidner Law blog, we’ve shared a number of details about defamation and today we’re going to recap some of those and take a look at a few more points that are important to know.

Online Business Defamation: 10 Facts You Need to Know

To Bring A Defamation Claim in Florida You Must…

In order to bring a defamation claim against someone in Florida, your business must plead a short and simple statement of facts that shows why you are entitled to relief. In this statement, you must state out the allegedly defamatory words that were used or published, however, you can paraphrase – the exact words need not be stated.

Defamation Per Se

Some statements or publications of statements are considered to be inherently defamatory, these statements or publications of statements are referred to as being “Defamation per se”. In the state of Florida, there are four categories of defamation per se, these include:

  • Statements made about a person committing a felony
  • Statements asserting a person has a disease
  • Statements and imputations that a person possesses characteristics unfit for business
  • Statements asserting a woman has acted promiscuously

If you are a business owner and have been subjected to defamation per se, you certainly have a case and need to consult a defamation attorney right away because the longer you allow this type of defamation to continue, the more damage it can do to your reputation, your business, and your financial bottom line.

Defamation Per Quod

When we talk about defamation in the state of Florida, it’s important to talk about defamation per quod, too. Defamation per quod is the exact opposite of defamation per se meaning that in order to be considered defamation, a plaintiff must be able to support a statement or publication of a statement with additional evidence to prove that the statement was defamatory and resulted in an injury (Johnson v. Finance Acceptance Co., 118 Fla. 397, 401 (Fla. 1935).) Unlike defamation per se, defamation per quod statements are not simply defamatory because of their nature.

Additionally, if the defamation is considered to be innuendo, then under defamation per quod regulations, additional evidence must be supplied that “must be known in order to inflict an injury.”

Defamation By Implication

Defamation by implication is when a true statement is made in a way that implies that there is a defamatory connection or when a true statement is made and facts are omitted in such a way that it creates a defamatory implication (Jews for Jesus, Inc. v. Rapp, 997 So. 2d 1098, 1108 (Fla. 2008).) The important thing to remember when it comes to defamation by implication is that the statement itself MUST be true, but it is made in a way that creates a negative connotation.

Florida’s Long-Arm Statute

Under Florida’s long-arm statute. Florida courts may have jurisdiction over defendants from out of state who commit tortious acts while within the state of Florida or through the services of another within the state of Florida. If the defamation in question is posted online, you may only pursue a defamation case after the defamatory statement online has been accessed by a third party within the state of Florida.

There Are Three Venues Where Defamation Plaintiffs can Pursue Defamation Cases According To Florida Law…

In the state of Florida, when bringing a defamation case against a person, persons, or entity, you may bring this action…

  • in the area in which the defendant lives
  • Where the defamation took place
  • Where the property at issue is located.

Forum Non-Conveniens

In Florida, when defamation takes place in Florida but neither of the parties involved in the defamation suit resides in Florida, something that is referred to as “forum non-conveniens” can come into play. Under Forum non-conveniens, a court may refuse to take on a case and jurisdiction if there is a more suitable venue available to take the case. In most cases, however, when defamation takes place in Florida and at that time, one or more of the parties involved lived in Florida, the courts will take the case.

The Florida Statute of Limitations on Defamation

Under Florida law, the Florida statute of limitations on defamation cases must be pursued within two years of the defamatory action taking place. There are three main reasons why this statute of limitations exists:

  1. To try to ensure that cases are brought with a valid cause of action with reasonable care and diligence by the plaintiff,
  2. To eliminate or reduce the chances of evidence and supporting documents being lost or destroyed between the time of defamation and the bringing of the case,
  3. To avoid more “cruelty than justice.”

The Single Publication Rule

The single publication rule states that a plaintiff of a libel case may only bring one case against a defendant for each mass publication of a defamatory statement made by the publisher. Under this rule, defamation claims will be deemed to have accrued…

  • When the first publication is made,
  • When the defamation is first exhibited, or
  • When the defamatory statement is first spoken.

Opinion Not Defamation

It’s important to know the difference between opinion and defamation because, in the state of Florida, statements of pure opinion are not considered to be defamation. However, a statement is only considered to be purely opinion when set forth, in the article, the facts on which the opinion is based or when the parties to the communication are aware of the facts or assume their existence and the opinion is clearly based on those facts.” Smith v. Taylor County Pub. Co., 443 So. 2d 1042, 1047 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1st Dist. 1983).

Are You In Need of an Online Business Defamation Attorney?

Are you in need of an online business defamation attorney to assist you with a case of defamation against your company online? If so and if you live in or around St. Pete, Florida, Weidner Law can help! Just give us a call today at 727-954-8752 and set up a consultation to start working on your case with one of our attorneys right away!

Leave a Reply