Elements of Defamation
Under Florida law, the elements of a defamation claim are:
the defendant published a false statement;
about the plaintiff;
to a third party; and
the falsity of the statement caused injury to the plaintiff.
Border Collie Rescue v. Ryan, 418 F.Supp.2d 1330, 1348 (M.D.Fla. 2006). A plaintiff must also prove that the defendant's fault in publishing the statement amounted to at least negligence. The elements of a defamation claim in Florida are similar to the elements discussed in the general Defamation Law section, with the following exceptions:
Defamation Per Se
In Mid-Florida Television Co. v. Boyles, 467 So.2d 282 (Fla. 1985), the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the state no longer recognizes presumed damages for defamation per se in lawsuits against media defendants. (Defamation "per se" refers to a legal doctrine which holds that some statements of fact are so egregious that a court will presume that they harmed the plaintiff's reputation.) The CMLP is not aware of any Florida cases deciding whether a blogger or non-traditional journalist is a "media defendant" for purposes of applying this rule. In cases involving matters of purely private concern, a Florida court could still presume damages based on defamation per se. In Florida, a statement amounts to defamation per se if it accuses the plaintiff of committing a crime or imputes to the plaintiff conduct, characteristics, or a condition incompatible with the proper exercise of his or her lawful business, trade, profession, or office.
Public and Private Figures