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Defamation is the publication of false and harmful statements about a person without reasonable care as to the truth or falsity of those statements which result in damage to that person’s reputation. However, a statement which might otherwise be defamatory may not be actionable if the statement is protected as privileged.
If a speaker makes a statement to another and the two share a legal interest in the subject matter of the statement, the statement is protected by a qualified privilege and not actionable unless made with express malice. Express malice consists of ill will, hostility or evil intention. For example, statements by an employee to another employee or to her employer regarding suspected criminal activity on the part of an employee are privileged.
Furthermore, when a corporation is accused of defamation by an employee, intra-company statements are, in effect, being made to the corporation itself and summary judgment with regard to such statements is appropriate
Statements to law enforcement are also presumptively privileged. Florida courts have recognized that some statements should be privileged because of the potential chilling effect to both law enforcement and judicial proceedings. Without the privilege, those with knowledge of criminal activity would be reluctant to report such activity.
Florida law makes clear that such testimony is absolutely privileged. Although lying under oath can result in a perjury charge; it can’t form the basis of a civil defamation lawsuit.
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