Defamation bill amendment aims to address concerns about venue shopping
Alex Andrade takes a pass on the Senate.

Alex Andrade said new language would put attorneys on the hook for frivolous lawsuits.

Concerns about venue shopping have followed a defamation bill from Session to Session. But Rep. Alex Andrade hopes an amendment to his bill puts fears to rest.

The Pensacola Republican filed a change to his bill (HB 757) to address concerns about plaintiffs bringing actions in sympathetic markets. That especially concerns political outlets.

The new language says plaintiffs can only sue in a county where they reasonably suffered damages. If a judge deems a lawsuit frivolous, the plaintiffs’ attorneys would be partly on the hook for fees, along with the plaintiffs themselves.

“Anyone who claims a frivolous lawsuit can be brought in a painful venue. Good luck finding a lawyer who is willing to do that,” Andrade said.

Of note, Andrade works as a lawyer, and has represented plaintiffs bringing defamation cases. But he has maintained that his lawsuit would not redefine “defamation” under the law or lead to a massive increase in litigation. He also says the bill would apply laws about retractions to electronic media equally.

While Gov. Ron DeSantis first announced a push last year for a defamation update, citing numerous right-wing causes célèbre, it has been conservative media outlets, especially radio stations, sounding the loudest alarms about Andrade’s bill.

Counsel for the National Religious Broadcasters sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Renner about the bill on Monday with concerns, and Andrade earlier this month had a testy exchange with James Schwarzel, owner of 92.5 FOX News, about the measure.

Many voiced concerns that plaintiffs and politicians angry at matters on air will sue in liberal areas, hoping to put the case in front of sympathetic juries and Judges.

While Andrade maintains that type of venue shopping can be challenged by attorneys under current law, the language about proving damages occurred in the area where a suit gets filed should erase the fear.

His amendment also includes language on where retractions or corrections for articles published on the internet. If pieces appear online and publishers leave them up following a correction or retraction, the law requires those corrections to appear in the headline or at the beginning of the article in type font as large or larger than the article itself.

“That’s like Gannett does now on online versions of articles,” he said.

Andrade said part of the bill aims to modernize the retraction statutes in Florida law, as online publishing isn’t subject to the same rules as print.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].

One comment

  • Dont Say FLA

    February 20, 2024 at 1:56 pm

    How about holding lawmakers and Flop Govs responsible for frivolous laws they put on the books for campaign purposes only?

Comments are closed.


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