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Florida First DCA affirms summary judgment for defendant in defamation case, finding plaintiff’s submission of unsworn and otherwise unauthenticated letter from third party did not constitute “summary judgment evidence” and was properly rejected by the trial court

On March 24, 2021, in Garback, et al. v. Gayle, No. 1D20-988, the Florida First DCA affirmed a summary judgment for the defendant in a defamation case because the plaintiff failed to submit competent summary judgment evidence to counter the defendant’s affidavit in which he denied making the alleged defamatory statements. Citing Page v. Staley, 226 So. 2d 129, 130 (Fla. 4th DCA 1969), the First DCA noted that once the defendant presented admissible evidence that he did not make the alleged defamatory statements, the burden was on the plaintiff to provide admissible evidence to the contrary. The plaintiff submitted an unsworn letter from a person who claimed to have attended the meeting where she heard the defendant make the alleged defamatory statements. However, the Court concluded that the unauthenticated letter did not constitute “summary judgment evidence” and, therefore, was properly rejected by the court, citing Booker v. Sarasota, Inc., 707 So. 2d 886, 889 (Fla. 1st DCA 1998).