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What is injurious falsehood?

Injurious falsehood generally refers to two tort actions: slander of title and trade libel. An injurious falsehood for slander of title occurs when an individual publishes false statements about the title to property or the plaintiff’s ownership interest under circumstances that would lead one to reasonably foresee third-party deterrence from purchasing or leasing the property. Injurious falsehood for trade libel centers on publishing false statements about the quality of the plaintiff’s property or goods. Courts may also refer to injurious falsehood as “disparagement of property,” “disparagement of title,” or “slandered goods.”

Though most injurious falsehood actions for slander of title center on written, recorded instruments, injurious falsehood may consist of a written statement or by word of mouth. In the construction law setting, lienors should be aware that improper liens, whether fraudulent or not, can give rise to injurious falsehood claims.

Finally, injurious falsehood is distinguishable from defamation, which concerns statements that affect an individual’s character instead of their property interests.

Need help with an injurious falsehood? Schedule your consultation today with a top business litigation attorney.

What legal issues typically arise related to injurious falsehood?

The following disputes are among the most common to injurious falsehood:

  • Placing an improper or fraudulent mechanics’ lien on property.
  • Claiming a lease on a property, thereby preventing its lease or sale to another.
  • Knowingly refusing to release a void financing agreement concerning realty.
  • Forbidding a property auction sale on the ground that the auctioneer has no right to sell it.
  • The filing or recording of a false instrument purporting to affect the title to a property.
  • False claims about the ingredients or the production process of a food product.
  • Spreading rumors that a car dealership is selling faulty vehicles.
  • Publishing fake customer reviews online to falsely claim that a merchant’s products are defective.
  • Falsely misrepresenting the condition of a property.
  • Publishing misinformation about the safety or efficacy of a pharmaceutical product.

What are relevant laws related to injurious falsehood in Florida?

Both statutory law and common law govern injurious falsehood claims. Statutorily, section 95.11(4)(g), Florida Statutes, governs how soon a claimant may bring an action based on injurious falsehood.

Florida courts have recognized claims for injurious falsehood in many contexts. This case law has been critical in establishing what must be proven by the plaintiff and what defenses are available to the defendant in an injurious falsehood case. For example, in Old Plantation Corp. v. Maule Indus. Inc., the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the statute of limitations applicable to slander and libel actions are to be used in an injurious falsehood case as opposed to the statute of limitations available for damage to real property. 68 So. 2d 180 (Fla. 1953). In Collier Cty. Publ’g Co. v. Chapman, the court limited the plaintiff’s compensable damages to pecuniary damages, excluding damages from mental suffering or harm to reputation. 318 So. 2d 492 (Fla. 2d DCA 1975).

What is required to prove a case of injurious falsehood in Florida?

The elements of an injurious falsehood claim are:

  • The defendant communicated to a third person;
  • A statement disparaging the plaintiff’s title;
  • The statement is untrue; and
  • Defendant’s communication caused the plaintiff to suffer actual damages.

When a set of facts is appropriate to meet the requirements of injurious falsehood, there are many paths a claimant may take. We are value-based attorneys at Jimerson Birr, which means we look at each action with our clients from the point of view of costs and benefits while reducing liability. Then, based on our client’s objectives, we chart a path forward to seek appropriate remedies, such as:

  • Compensatory & Punitive Damages
  • Injunctions

To see what actions may be available for your unique situation, please contact our office to set up your initial consultation.

What are common defenses to injurious falsehood in Florida?

The primary defenses to injurious falsehood in Florida include:

  • Absence of actual malice: Punitive damages may only be awarded in an injurious falsehood claim if there was actual malice. Therefore, defendants may limit their liability by demonstrating a lack of malice.
  • No damages: The defendant may claim that the plaintiff did not suffer any damages due to their disparagement.
  • Statute of limitations: The defendant may contend that the two-year statute of limitations bars the plaintiff’s claim.
  • Truthfulness: Though the falsity of the statement in question is part of the plaintiff’s prima facie case, the defendant may present evidence demonstrating that the statement is true or cannot be proven objectively false.

When defending against an injurious falsehood claim in Florida, one core strategy is to focus on disproving the elements of falsity or damage by providing evidence of the statement’s truthfulness or that the plaintiff’s claimed damages are non-compensable.

To see what defenses may be available for your unique situation, please contact our office to set up your initial consultation.

Have more questions about an injurious falsehood-related situation?

Crucially, this overview of injurious falsehood does not begin to cover all the laws implicated by this issue or the factors that may compel the application of such laws. Every case is unique, and the laws can produce different outcomes depending on the individual circumstances.

Jimerson Birr attorneys guide our clients to help make informed decisions while ensuring their rights are respected and protected. Our lawyers are highly trained and experienced in the nuances of the law, so they can accurately interpret statutes and case law and holistically prepare individuals or companies for their legal endeavors. Through this intense personal investment and advocacy, our lawyers will help resolve the issue’s complicated legal problems efficiently and effectively.

Having a Jimerson Birr attorney on your side means securing a team of seasoned, multi-dimensional, cross-functional legal professionals. Whether it is a transaction, an operational issue, a regulatory challenge, or a contested legal predicament that may require court intervention, we remain a tireless advocate every step of the way. Being a value-added law firm means putting the client at the forefront of everything we do. We use our experience to help our clients navigate even the most complex problems and come out the other side triumphant.

If you want to understand your case, the merits of your claim or defense, potential monetary awards, or the amount of exposure you face, you should speak with a qualified Jimerson Birr lawyer. Our experienced team of attorneys is here to help. Call Jimerson Birr at (904) 389-0050 or use the contact form to set up a consultation.

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