Defamatory Statements In a Chat Room In Florida Law

In the chat room context, a Fourth District Court of Appeal case specifically addressed the issue of whether defamatory statements in a chat room constituted electronic communications into Florida under Wendt v. Horowitz, 822 So. 2d 1252 (Fla. 2002). In Becker v. Hooshmand, 841 So. 2d 561 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003), the plaintiff, a licensed physician practicing in Florida, filed a complaint alleging that the out-of-state defendant was a moderator of an Internet chat room and had "posted numerous defamatory comments about him that were targeted to Florida residents, or people likely to seek medical care in the state of Florida, which resulted in injury to his reputation and business." Id. at 561. The district court quoted this Court's decision in Wendt that a defendant's physical presence is not required and that committing a tortious act in Florida can occur through the nonresident defendant's telephonic, electronic, or written communications into Florida. Id. at 562-63. The Fourth District concluded that the alleged defamatory comments in the chat room were sufficient to satisfy section 48.193(1)(b) because "the communications that form the basis of the allegations in this case are analogous to cases previously decided by this court and certainly fit within the recent Supreme Court's discussion of electronic communications." Id. at 563.