Note: This page covers information specific to Florida. For general information concerning Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), see the overview section of this guide.
Florida has two narrow anti-SLAPP statutes, but neither is likely to protect bloggers and non-traditional journalists engaging in online publishing activities. Fla. Stat. § 768.295 protects against SLAPPs brought by government entities in retaliation for exercising one's right to petition the government. Fla. Stat. § 720.304 protects a homeowner's right to petition the government when acting to "address matters concerning [his or her] homeowners' association." It applies to SLAPPs brought by individuals, business associations, and government entities.
Activities Covered By The Florida Anti-SLAPP Statutes
Fla. Stat. § 768.295 applies to SLAPPs brought by the government in response to the exercise of "the right to peacefully assemble, the right to instruct representatives, and the right to petition for redress of grievances before the various governmental entities" of Florida.
Fla. Stat. § 720.304 (4) applies only to homeowners in a homeowners' association. It protects a homeowner's exercise of "the right to instruct his or her representatives or the right to petition for redress of grievances before the various governmental entities" of Florida. The statute, which applies to SLAPPs brought by individuals, business associations, and government entities, further explains that it is aimed at protecting against lawsuits arising out of a homeowner's "appearance and presentation before a governmental entity on matters related to the homeowners' association."
The CMLP has not identified any relevant case law concerning how either of these statutes apply to online speech activities. Based on the language of the statute, however, it seems unlikely that either one would protect online activity that occurs outside of official government proceedings. On the other hand, these statutes might protect you if you made statements on a government-operated forum, or if you used your online platform to call on the government to address an issue of public concern (or, in the case of the latter statute, an issue related to a homeowners' association).
How To Use The Florida Anti-SLAPP Statute
If you are served with a complaint that you believe to be a SLAPP (as described in the section above), you should seek legal assistance immediately. Under Florida's anti-SLAPP laws, you can file a motion to dismiss or a motion for summary judgment under section 768.295 (5) in the case of a government SLAPP or section 720.304 (4)(c) in the case of a homeowner-related SLAPP. In either situation, after the party suing you has filed its response, the court will hear your motion "at the earliest possible time."
What Happens If You Win Your Motion
If you prevail on a motion to dismiss or a motion for summary judgment under the anti-SLAPP statutes, the court will dismiss the lawsuit against you, and you will be entitled to recover your attorneys' fees and court costs. In addition, the court may award you any damages sustained as a result of the lawsuit. Further, if the court rules for you under the homeowner anti-SLAPP law, it may award you treble damages (i.e., 3X your actual damages).
If you succeed in fending off a SLAPP in Florida, you may be able to bring a claim of malicious prosecution against the SLAPP filer. While Florida does not explicitly recognize a "SLAPPback" claim, the elements of a malicious prosecution claim are similar. You should consult an attorney to see whether such a claim may be viable in your case.