Update: Florida Supreme Court rejects “false light” theory

The Florida high court has rejected the invasion-of-privacy tort theory under which a defendant can be held liable for a publication setting forth individually true facts which collectively create a misleading impression. We’ve extensively covered one of the two lawsuits on which the court ruled, in which famed attorney Willie Gary obtained an $18 million jury verdict against Gannett for investigative journalism it perpetrated against one of his clients. An appeals court later threw out the verdict. (WSJ law blog, Pensacola News-Journal, St. Petersburg Times editorial).

However, Marc Randazza at Citizen Media Law Blog (Oct. 24), analyzing the second of the two Florida cases, Rapp v. Jews for Jesus, warns that the decisions fell far short of being the free speech victories some have taken them as, because the Florida court endorsed and strengthened theories of “defamation by implication” which will usually be available in suing over the same fact patterns, the difference being that suits alleging “defamation by implication” must overcome more robust First Amendment defenses. Similarly: Elizabeth Spainhour, Newsroom Law Blog, Oct. 24.

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