Law School Case Brief
Wolfson v. Kirk - 273 So. 2d 774 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1973)
Defamation (libel and slander) may generally be defined as the unprivileged publication of false statements which naturally and proximately result in injury to another. Malice is an essential element of the tort. Without malice, either express or implied by law, no tort could result from the publication of a defamatory statement concerning another, however untrue it might be.
Plaintiff Wolfson filed suit for slander per se against defendant Kirk for the remarks that he made during his reelection campaign, asserting that Kirk’s remarks were intended to defame Wolfson. The trial court granted Kirk’s motion to dismiss on the ground that Wolfson’s complaint failed to state a cause of action for slander per se. Wolfson sought review.
Were the allegations of plaintiff Wolfson sufficient to indicate that he was intended to be the subject of Kirk’s remarks during his re-election campaign?
The court reversed and determined that the allegations in the complaint were sufficient to indicate that Wolfson was intended to be the subject of Kirk’s remarks, and that it was understood to be such by the listeners. The court determined that while the trial court was justified the dismissing the complaint for failure to state a cause of action if it concluded that the communication could not possibly have a defamatory or harmful effect, if a communication was ambiguous and reasonably susceptible of a meaning which was defamatory, it should be left to a jury to decide whether or not the communication was understood in a defamatory sense.
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