Last Updated: Monday, May 1, 2017
Florida Libel Requirements: Proof Of Actual Damages
In the State of Florida, a false statement that exposes someone to ridicule or shame is not merely enough to state a valid claim for defamation.
Proof of actual damages must be contained in every plaintiff's complaint.
Whenever that proof is missing, defendants are absolutely entitled to either a dismissal of the case or a decision in their favor at summary judgment.
The case law by which every trial judge must abide appears below. If you have been served a defamation lawsuit in the State of Florida that does not contain any proof of damages,
it is important to file a Motion To Dismiss and reference this case law therein.
Be sure to schedule a hearing that allows sufficient time for you to make your points. Bring copies of both your motion and the case law for the judge and opposing counsel.
Any judge who does not dismiss a defamation lawsuit that contains no proof of actual damages is abusing his power and legislating from the bench.
Defamation is an exceedingly difficult allegation to prove. As such, litigating a defamation case is extraordinarily time‑consuming and expensive.
Most clear‑thinking folks will simply ignore the statement they believe to be defamatory rather than start writing five‑ and six‑figure
checks to their attorney ‑‑ or
they will reach out to the speaker and agree to a resolution.
For those reasons, many trial judges simply have never presided over a defamation case in their lives, and, likewise, brought no defamation
experience whatsoever with them from their private practice before beginning their term on the bench.
Of course, that should be no excuse for judges failing to familiarize themselves with the defamation
laws in Florida and make appropriate decisions when bogus cases arrive on their docket.
(Defamation per se is an entirely separate tort that does not require proof of actual damages. It is explained more fully on a separate page of this website).
Edelstein v. WFTV, Inc., 798 So.2d 797, 798 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001) affirming trial court's dismissal;
Anheuser-Busch v. Philpot, 317 F.3d 1264, 1266 (11th Cir. 2003) citing
Miami Herald Publ'g Co. v. Ane, 423 So.2d 376, 388 (Fla. 3d DCA 1982):
"Proof of actual damages is an essential element of a defamation action under Florida law."