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  1. #1
    281.mustang is offline Junior Member
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    Defamation of Character

    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Florida

    Recently my father was charged multiple overdraft fees that he believed to be invalid. He called the bank and tried to get them reversed but with no avail, so he drove down and talked to one of the Customer Service reps and they ended up getting into a heated debate. My father was about to walk out when the manager called him into her office to discuss it.

    They calmly discussed the overdraft situation for a few minutes when all of the sudden two LEOs walk in, apparently one of the clerks called 911 when my father was arguing with the assistant. The girl that called 911 was apologetic to the officers but later claimed that he "went around the lobby and threw objects from the counter on the floor" when asked to explain why she called. Another employee(the assistant he talked to) claimed that he threatened her over the phone, both of which are untrue. The LEOs then went into the manager's office to talk with him, according to my father they had a snide attitude and never asked him for his version of the story. They simply took the staff's story for truth and told him that he would be arrested if anything like this happend again.

    I later told my father what the staff said to the LEOs and he because furious and is now looking at filing a suit against the bank. I'm not entirely sure all of what the staff told the officers as I could only hear parts, but we will be getting a copy of the report in a couple days.

    I doubt their phone conversations are recorded, but the part about him going on a rampage in the lobby should be easily refutable as the area is obviously under video surveillance. Assuming at least the part about the lobby is in the police report does it seem like a fairly straight forward case? Does anyone know where I could possibly find cases of simlar situations? Any information would be greatly appreciated.
  2. #2
    quincy is offline Senior Member
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    I know of no similar cases for you to review.

    What is said to the police is "privileged" and cannot be used to support a defamation action (unless he can prove actual malice, which does not seem likely from what you have posted).

    I suggest your father speak with an attorney and go over all of the facts, including how the dispute arose. Your father would need a court order to obtain a copy of the surveillance video. Seeing as how the bank did not file a complaint against your father and your father was not arrested by the police, I doubt that there is any successful legal action your father can bring against the bank.
  3. #3
    cyjeff is offline Senior Member
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    As we have explained several times, the police act upon probable cause. The courts work on reasonable doubt.

    In other words, the police had to investigate the incident because someone called in the report.

    I agree with quincy, though... your father wasn't investigated. He wasn't worried about his reputation when he was screaming in the main part of the bank.

    To be honest, I know of very few retail locations that wouldn't have called the police under the same circumstances.
  4. #4
    281.mustang is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by quincy View Post
    I know of no similar cases for you to review.

    What is said to the police is "privileged" and cannot be used to support a defamation action (unless he can prove actual malice, which does not seem likely from what you have posted).

    I suggest your father speak with an attorney and go over all of the facts, including how the dispute arose. Your father would need a court order to obtain a copy of the surveillance video. Seeing as how the bank did not file a complaint against your father and your father was not arrested by the police, I doubt that there is any successful legal action your father can bring against the bank.
    Intresting, do you know where I could find the statute number for that? I would like to see how it's worded.

    On another note, if you can't use a police report to prove defamation of character would filing a false police report be a more plausible suit?

    Quote Originally Posted by cyjeff View Post
    As we have explained several times, the police act upon probable cause. The courts work on reasonable doubt.

    In other words, the police had to investigate the incident because someone called in the report.
    Okay? I'm well aware of that, ,no one is arguing that they didn't have a right to call the police or the police didn't have a right to talk to my father.

    Quote Originally Posted by cyjeff
    I agree with quincy, though... your father wasn't investigated. He wasn't worried about his reputation when he was screaming in the main part of the bank.
    Becuase he raised his voice in front of a handful of clerks in a bank he shouldn't care if the staff fabricates a false story to the police? What kind of rational is that?
  5. #5
    cyjeff is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by 281.mustang View Post
    Becuase he raised his voice in front of a handful of clerks in a bank he shouldn't care if the staff fabricates a false story to the police? What kind of rational is that?
    Be careful. You should stretch before you make such a leap in reason.

    What I was saying was that you want to sue someone because your father was embarrassed. I am saying that his reputation didn't seem to bother him when he was screaming at people in a public place.

    These are the exact same questions that the opposing counsel will ask... and I guarantee the bank has EXCELLENT legal counsel.
  6. #6
    quincy is offline Senior Member
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    mustang, I am not sure what statute number you are referring to. Defamation is covered under Florida's Title XLVI Chapter 836. Privilege in Florida follows the Restatement (Second) of Torts and case law.

    Although some states consider reports made to the police absolutely privileged, and an informal complaint to authorities is to be regarded as the "initial step" in a judicial proceeding, Florida looks at reports made to the police as qualified. Qualified privilege grants a speaker immunity from defamation claims unless the information is false and the speaker's primary motivation in making the report is to injure the subject's reputation (made with actual malice).

    Florida courts balance the right of an individual to protect his reputation from unfounded attacks, against the need of the public for free and unhindered communication to assist authorities in detecting and prosecuting perpetrators of criminal activity.

    To overcome qualified privilege, a person would need to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the reporter's statements were false and were uttered with common law express malice (where the primary motive was an intent to injure a party's reputation).

    For a review of Florida law on privilege as it applies to reports made to the police, a good case for you to look at is Fridovich v Fridovich, 598 So2d 65 (Fla 1992).

    Whether to take any action on a false police report, a prosecutor would decide whether any action should be pursued. If the police did not expend much time or energy or money on investigating the original report made to the police (and it does not appear that they did), the police and the prosecutor are not going to want to spend a lot of time or money on a false police report charge.

    Although I am sure that your father is embarrassed and upset by the police responding to his "heated debate" with bank officers, the call made by the bank employee does not seem to have been made with malice. Your father does not appear to have any defamation action he can pursue against the bank that would have any chance of success, based on what you have posted here.

    I suggest your father find another bank to do business with.

    And, if you and your father are intent on pursuing an action against the bank, for what you perceive is a violation of your father's rights to an unsullied reputation, I suggest you speak with an attorney and go over all of the facts of the situation with him. Again, however, I personally do not see any legal action you can pursue against the bank that would have any chance of success, based on what you have posted here.

    And, as cyjeff warned, you should watch what you say about the bank and its employees. You could be on the wrong side of a defamation action if you are not very very careful.
  7. #7
    281.mustang is offline Junior Member
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    Thanks for the information, I'll do some reseach.
  8. #8
    quincy is offline Senior Member
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    You're welcome, mustang. Good luck to you and your father.

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