free speech

Can We Speak the Truth?

We take for granted in America that we have a right to free speech. But, do we recognize the responsibilities we have exercising that right?  Not always.

We generally believe that we are free to speak the truth without fear.  But, here in Florida, just speaking (or writing) true facts alone does not mean the speaker is free to speak in a manner which causes harm to the target of the statements.  Motive for the speech also matters, and speaking true facts can be actionable in Florida if bad motives can be shown.  Liability can exist even if the statement is thought to be merely an opinion.  Omitting other true facts from a statement of true facts can be the basis of a suit for damages caused by stating certain true facts while omitting others.

If Mom told you, “Better not to speak if you don’t have something nice to say,” she was probably right.  Our 45th President has told us that he thinks the law of libel and slander needs to be more protective of the targets of offensive speech.

The law of defamation, libel and slander is a complex and evolving area.   Liability for hurtful speech can exist in unexpected situations.  Publishers of hurtful speech, and their victims, are often surprised to learn that truth of the statement alone, or mere expression of one’s opinion, are not alone protection against liability for damages resulting from the manner in which truth or opinion are expressed.

In our modern era of posting statements for worldwide audiences on the internet it is more important than ever to understand the risks and remedies related to what many might consider “free speech.”

To learn more about defamation, libel and slander in Florida, contact Jeff Fridkin at jfridkin@gfpac.com or call 239-514-1000.

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Jeff Fridkin is a founding member of Grant Fridkin Pearson, P.A., and has practiced law in Southwest Florida since 1985. He has for 25 years maintained an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and is Florida Bar Board-Certified in Civil Trial and Business Litigation.

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