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Florida Third DCA reverses trial court order dismissing plaintiff’s complaint against broadcast news company for defamation/libel; finds that plaintiff’s pre-suit notice was sufficient under Fla. Stat. Section 770.01.

On February 20, 2019, in Cousins v. Post-Newsweek Stations Florida, Inc., et al, No. 3D17-2805, the Florida Third DCA reversed a trial court order dismissing the plaintiff’s complaint against a broadcast news company for defamation/libel. Under Section 770.01, Florida Statutes, a prospective plaintiff in a case based on the publication or broadcast of an alleged libel or slander in a newspaper, periodical or other medium must first serve notice in writing on the prospective defendant, specifying the article or broadcast and the statements therein which he or she alleges to be false and defamatory. The defendant successfully moved the trial court to dismiss the case based on the alleged inadequacy of the notice that the plaintiff had provided regarding the specific statements that were claimed to be tortious. In reversing the trial court’s order, the Third DCA noted that the standard for notice regarding oral statements is not as exacting as the standard for written statements. Specifically, the Third DCA stated that when the alleged defamation is by oral statement, it is sufficient for the pleader to “set out the substance of the spoken words with sufficient particularity to enable the court to determine whether the publication was defamatory,” quoting Edward L. Nezelek, Inc. v. Sunbeam Television Corp., 413 So. 2d 51, 12 55 (Fla. 3d DCA 1982). In other words, a “pleader need only state the essence of what the alleged defamer said.” Scott v. Busch, 907 So. 2d 662, 667 (Fla. 5th DCA 2005).