When it comes to online defamation in the state of Florida, in order to prove your case in court, you must be able to prove online defamation damages. Just how do you go about proving that someone’s comments about you or your business have damaged your business or your reputation? That’s precisely what we’re going to talk about today.
Actual Damages Necessary to Prove Online Defamation in FL
We have talked about the general criteria that are necessary for something to be considered as defamatory under Florida law, but today, we want to talk specifically about defamation damages.
In the state of Florida, defamation plaintiffs must be able to prove that the content that they are pursuing a defamation case over caused you “actual damages.” There are other categories of damage that you may pursue as a result of the alleged defamation as well, however, in Florida, you MUST also have experienced actual damages.
What Are “Actual Damages”?
“Actual damage” is a term used to refer to any injury, real and actual harm, or loss that you experience as the direct result of the alleged defamatory content. Sometimes, these types of damages will be referred to as “compensatory damages”.
So what qualifies as injury, harm, or loss? Well, these categories are actually quite broad.
We instinctively think of something more tangible when we think of “actual damages”. For example, a business that gets burned down after someone falsely reports that the owner of that business is a child predator.
The state of Florida, however, also recognizes mental anguish and suffering and personal humiliation as actual damages as referenced in the 1974 case of Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U.S. 323.
Quantifying Damages in a Defamation Suit
One of the more difficult aspects when it comes to intangible actual online defamation damages in a defamation suit is quantifying those damages so that compensation can be sought. After all, how do you put a price tag on your humiliation? Quite simply, there is no guideline for this type of situation.
So how do you determine what to seek?
Of course, the tangible actual damages that resulted from the defamation are easily calculated and thus, they can be easily compensated, but the less tangible damages are a little trickier to calculate.
Sitting down with a defamation attorney can help to put you on the right path and give you a realistic expectation of what you might expect in terms of compensation if you win your case.
Ultimately, though, it is the jury in your case or the settlement process that will determine your compensation. In a jury trial, the judge will instruct the jury to use their knowledge, experience, and common sense to come up with a compensation amount that they deem fair. This can present some more unique complications, however, since there are a number of factors that can sway the jury – for example, does the jury like you? Something as simple as being more appealing to a jury can result in higher compensation!
Settling in a defamation suit is one way to avoid these external factors from influencing jury decisions as far as how much compensation you should receive in your case. In fact, the majority of defamation cases are settled outside of court.
Why Consider Settling Your Defamation Case Outside of Court?
Settling your defamation case outside of court may be recommended for a number of reasons including the following:
No chance of jury bias
As mentioned above.
Less publicity for the case
This can be beneficial in extremely scandalous cases where a public trial would increase exposure to the scandalous defamation and push it further into the spotlight.
Less cost for everyone involved
Settling a defamation case before going to court simply costs everyone a lot less money. Pursuing your case through the courts involves a lot of expenses that most people don’t consider. Some of these include:
- Layer fees
- Time away from work
- Court costs
- Deposition costs
- Research costs
- Filing costs
No Judge’s Influence
Of course judges are supposed to be impartial, however, there is always a chance that a judge’s opinions can influence any compensation you receive in a defamation lawsuit. For example, if you have pursued and lost other cases of defamation under the same judge before, they may see you as filing frivolous lawsuits and be vigilant in overseeing your case.
Limitations on Claiming Actual Damages in a Defamation Suit
There are some limitations on compensation that can be sought for actual damages. Under Fla. Sta. § 770.02, your compensation in a defamation suit is limited to actual damages if the defamatory content published was a good-faith mistake AND if the defendant issues a retraction, correction, or apology within a specified period.
The Florida Statute of Limitations on Defamation
Florida’s statute of limitations for defamation is two (2) years. You may not pursue a case of defamation if two years have passed since the publication of the alleged defamatory content.
Do You Need an Online Defamation Attorney in Florida?
If you’re in need of an online defamation attorney in Florida who can help you to prove online defamation damages and seek justice, Weidner Law can help. Give us a call today at 727-954-8752 and let us set you up with a consultation so that we can further explore your options.