Ask a Business Lawyer. Get Business Law Questions Answered ASAP.
I was seeking a defamation count against the client on top of numerous other counts of tort. Would not defamation be appropriate if an unsubstantiated allegation was made, through the attorney, that met with the term "imputing to another a criminal offense amounting to a felony."?
Let me confirm something. IS THE CLIENT accountable for whatever harm his attorney does to another, while acting in his name?
There is no lawsuit. There was no court trial, at least not where the party in question is concerned.
The defamation was a felonious allegation made in a letter through an attorney, who then appeared in a non related court hearing and repeated that allegation without being a witness or having a cause for being there, and combined the two incidents defamed the first person's trust with his creditors, who were in the court, at a hearing for bankruptcy.
The charges were unsubstantiated, unfounded, and as a result the defaming party profitted by the loss of the first party's property in bankruptcy.
Defamation applicable? (Hypothetically speaking, :-))
Confidentiality wouldn't apply; as the letter was then used to undermine the Trustee (first person) with the corporation's bankruptcy attorney, who quit as a result.
The letter was never read in open court; but the co-counsel of the author appeared in open court (uninvited) and repeated similar allegations given by his client. Regarding the "punitive damages" issue, you might look at "Saunders Hardware Five and Ten, inc. v. Low, 307 So. 2d. 893 (Fla. 3d DCA 1974)" There is an interesting opinion there... "punitive damages may be awarded even though the amount of actual damages is neither found nor shown"
"...for in such a case, the requirement of showing of actual damages as a basis of an award for exemplary damages is satisfied by the presumption of injury which arised from the showing of libel or slander that is actionable per se."
I know. But they can be nearly nothing; only figurative. However, in the hypothetical issue we're discussing the numbers are in the high six figures, so this is just frosting on the cake. But deserved and justified. I don't know if you got to the judge's comments on the earlier case (Lawnwood Medical Center v. Sadow), but they were unprecedented from a century back rights to a man's good name being upheld. Citing "Thou shall not bear false witness against they neighbor." Adding that Florida is unmatched in how it sees the preservation of one's good name, and legal damnation for those who defame it.
If you google "slander per se, florida" you'll get some great citings.
Some is law firm P.R., but their comments and case law are valid.
Might I ask what state you're licensed in?
Supreme Court? Cool. That's great on the resume. Well, I appreciate your insight and time on this subject. I'm from Memphis, although now in Florida. Thanks a lot!
I miss it. But Memphis has changed a lot in the last 20 years. I'll look forward to your expertise again; and saved you in my arsenal of experts.
Have a great weekend.
DISCLAIMER: Answers from Experts on JustAnswer are not substitutes for the advice of an attorney. JustAnswer is a public forum and questions and responses are not private or confidential or protected by the attorney-client privilege. The Expert above is not your attorney, and the response above is not legal advice. You should not read this response to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law that might affect the situation you describe. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken with you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction to which your question pertains.
The responses above are from individual Experts, not JustAnswer. The site and services are provided “as is”. To view the verified credential of an Expert, click on the “Verified” symbol in the Expert’s profile. This site is not for emergency questions which should be directed immediately by telephone or in-person to qualified professionals. Please carefully read the Terms of Service (last updated February 8, 2012).