Florida has two anti-SLAPP laws, one narrow in scope and the other much broader. The narrower provision specifically protects homeowners from lawsuits by individuals, businesses, and government entities based on homeowners’ “appearance and presentation before a governmental entity on matters related to the homeowners’ association.” § 720.304(4). Florida’s legislature intended such SLAPP suits to be “expeditiously disposed of by the courts.” § 720.304(4).
Florida’s general anti-SLAPP provision, which was adopted in 2000 and expanded in 2015, prohibits lawsuits brought against individuals for exercising their right of free speech in connection with a public issue or their rights to peacefully assemble, to instruct representatives of government, or to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Fla. Stat. Ann. § 768.295(3) (2019).
The law defines “free speech in connection with public issues” as statements “made before a governmental entity in connection with an issue under consideration or review by a governmental entity” or “made in or in connection with a play, movie, television program, radio broadcast, audiovisual work, book, magazine article, musical work, news report, or other similar work.” § 768.295(2)(a).
Under Florida’s general anti-SLAPP law, a defendant can file a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment, which the court will hear “at the earliest possible time.” § 768.295(4).
Florida’s anti-SLAPP laws are two of only a handful that do not address whether a SLAPP defendant’s motion will halt discovery proceedings. Besides stating that a defendant must show that the lawsuit was brought in violation of the relevant anti-SLAPP law, neither provision specifies what standard a court uses to decide whether a claim was wrongly brought. §§ 768.295(4), 720.304(4)(c).
Significantly, under either anti-SLAPP provision, whichever party prevails on the special motion is entitled to recover attorney’s fees and costs. §§ 768.295(4); 720.304(c). Thus, a SLAPP defendant who does not prevail on an anti-SLAPP motion must pay the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and costs, presenting a significant deterrent from filing even legitimate anti-SLAPP motions.
Under the general anti-SLAPP provision, if a government entity is found to be in violation of this statute, the court may award actual damages. § 768.295(4). In addition, a defendant who prevails under Florida’s homeowner anti-SLAPP law may be awarded treble damages. § 720.304(4)(c).