Defamation occurs when someone makes a false statement about another person in Florida. Spoken defamation is slander, while written defamation is libel. Both types can seriously harm a person’s reputation, with statements that are “defamation per se” the more serious, as opposed to “defamation per quod.”
Not protected by the First Amendment
Because defamation involves false statements, the First Amendment does not protect it. Defamation per se is also divided into slander per se and libel per se. It differs from defamation per quod, as with the latter, the court must look at the statement’s context, and the plaintiff must show how it was harmful. Defamation per se involves defamatory words on their face, meaning that the harm is evident when you look at them.
Defamation per se categories
To prove defamation per se, it must fall into one of four categories; otherwise, the plaintiff must prove the harm the statement caused. These categories involve saying that someone did the following:
- Committed a crime or engaged in immoral conduct
- Had a contagious, infectious or loathsome disease
- Was unchaste or engaged in sexual misconduct
- Made untrue, harmful statements about a business, trade or profession
The standard of proof for public figures or officials is higher. Public figures must prove that defendants acted with “actual malice” to prove defamation per se, meaning that the wrongful party knew the statement was wrong or acted with reckless disregard.
Protecting your reputation
Defamation can seriously harm your business interests. Defamation often happens to businesses when unhappy customers make statements to punish companies they felt didn’t deliver on their promises. If these statements are untrue, companies may be able to file lawsuits for defamation.
Anyone who files a defamation lawsuit may be able to collect various damages if the court sides with them. The monetary damages that plaintiffs may recover include general damages to their past and future reputations. Plaintiffs may also be eligible for special damages or punitive damages, depending on the circumstances. You may receive nominal damages if you cannot prove harm to your reputation.