What’s The Deal With Defamation Per Se?

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have given individuals a voice and a way to express themselves. However, social media has also lead to the rise of causes of action  connected to defamation.

Defamation is essentially based on an individual making a false statement that has been published and causes injury. Under Florida law, the elements needed to be proven in a defamation claim are:

  1. The defendant published a false statement;
  2. About the plaintiff;
  3. To a third party; and
  4. The falsity of the statement caused injury to the plaintiff

Defamation is usually categorized into separate causes of action of libel or slander. Libel is a published false statement in writing that causes harm to one’s reputation. Slander is the act of making a false statement through speech that similarly causes harm to one’s reputation.

Another wrinkle in defamation causes of action is defamation per se. According to the Restatement (Second) of Torts, defamation per se is defined as an instance wherein “one who publishes matter defamatory to another in such a manner as to make the publication a slander is subject to liability to the other although no special harm results if the publication imputes to the other” if the statement includes a reference to the plaintiff and,

  1. A criminal offense;
  2. A lithesome disease;
  3. Matter incompatible with his business, trade, profession, or office; or
  4. Serious sexual misconduct.

Many states have modified or even eliminated the ability to bring a per se action, but Florida remains a per se jurisdiction. According to the Florida Supreme Court, the types of damages that can be awarded in defamation causes of action are:

  1. General damages, which is compensation for past and future harm to one’s reputation and any mental or emotional anguish or humiliation.
  2. Special damages, which is compensation for economic loss caused by the defamation such as loss of wages.
  3. Nominal damages, which is a sum awarded in defamation per se causes of action containing no serious harm to one’s reputation
  4. Punitive or exemplary damages, which is additional sums meant to punish for willful or malicious actions.

Whether you are an individual or a business that has been defamed, Heitner Legal can discuss the options regarding your situation. Additionally, we can guide you through the process of bringing a defamation cause of action and restoring your reputation.  Similarly, if you find yourself as an defendant in such a claim, Heitner Legal may be able to assist you in raising appropriate defenses.


The Free Dictionary by Farlex website,

Bossory, Andrew, Defamation Per Se: Be Prepared to Plead (and Prove!) Actual Damages, American Bar Association Section of Litigation Business Torts & Unfair Competition (June 3, 2014),

Florida Supreme Court website,