Wednesday, November 02, 2011

FL State App. Court Rules that Lit. Privilege does not Extend to Websites

The Great Seal of the State of FloridaImage via WikipediaAn interesting read:

After the plaintiffs filed suit against the defendants for (among other things) reach of contract, the defendants placed warnings to the public on their website stating that plaintiffs had violated certain trademarks. A memorandum on the defendants’ website stated that the plaintiffs were selling products and labeling them as D’Lites when they actually were not. The defendants’ website stated that “you need to know the product they are passing off as D’Lites Emporium ice cream is in fact a hoax.”

The Plaintiffs then amended the complaint claiming defamation. Disagreeing that a litigation privilege existed regarding the publication, the Court stated:

"We analogize the publication of statements on the internet to calling a press conference with the media or otherwise publishing defamatory information to the newspapers or other media. Other courts have
considered the issue of whether statements to a newspaper or other media are made in connection with a judicial proceeding. In Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259 (1993), the Supreme Court held that a
prosecutor was not entitled to absolute judicial immunity for making defamatory statements at a press conference regarding a criminal prosecution, because comments to the press do not have any functional
tie to a judicial proceeding."

The Court went on to note:

The website publication in this case was not made in  connection with the judicial proceeding. It was not made in the proceedings itself, nor was it made to a participant connected to the proceeding such as a witness. Like statements to the newspapers or press conferences, these statements have n o part in the judicial
proceedings. Instead, they were made to the world at large through the website and accused the plaintiffs of fraud and perpetrating a hoax on the public. These statements were not “necessarily preliminary” to
judicial proceedings, because unlike either Ange or Stewart the statements were not steps in the judicial process."

Read the opinion here:

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