TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A sharply divided Florida Supreme Court says lawyers are not entitled to an absolute shield against defamation lawsuits for out-of-court comments made in connection with legal cases.
A 4-3 majority ruled Thursday that lawyers can be sued for defamation but that plaintiffs must prove their comments expressed malice. The decision also applies to out-of-court comments made by judges, parties and witnesses related to pending cases.
The opinion reverses two lower courts and reinstates a defamation action against attorney Arthur Rodgers Traynor in a Broward County case. A boat dealer had accused a competitor of making defamatory statements that the plaintiff had supplied prostitutes to a company that did business with the plaintiff.
The defendant dealer hired Traynor. The plaintiff then accused Traynor of making similar defamatory statements to potential witnesses.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.