A federal court in Florida has dismissed a defamation claim against a media company and awarded attorney’s fees under the Florida anti-SLAPP statute. Thomas & LoCicero represented Korangy Publishing Inc., which had been sued for defamation based on statements published in its paper The Real Deal, which addressed a $200 million lawsuit filed by the plaintiff against the father of her child, a prominent real estate developer.
The plaintiff previously filed two lawsuits against Korangy based on this same article. She voluntarily dismissed each lawsuit after TLo attorneys Dana J. McElroy and Daniela Abratt filed motions to dismiss.
“Korangy was entitled to an award of its attorney’s fees and costs because the lawsuit clearly violated Florida’s anti-SLAPP statute.”
The plaintiff then filed suit for the third time, again based on the same article. This time, Korangy asserted the defamation claim was barred by res judicata, and the Court agreed. It held the claim was barred because the prior second dismissal operated as an adjudication on the merits under the rules of procedure and that this third case arose from the same nucleus of facts as the prior two.
Furthermore, the court held that Korangy was entitled to an award of its attorney’s fees and costs because it clearly violated Florida’s anti-SLAPP statute, which bars a claimant from filing a meritless lawsuit against an entity that has exercised its constitutional right of free speech in connection with a public issue. The court held that the lawsuit was meritless because it was barred by res judicata, and that the article concerned a publicly filed lawsuit and was thus an exercise of free speech connected with a public issue. It then held that “[a]n award of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs is mandatory under these circumstances.”
The case was Vibe Ener v. Duckenfield et. al, No. 20-cv-22886-UU (S.D. Fla. Sept. 29, 2020).