final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Lower
Tribunal No. 16-29615 Jorge E. Cueto, Judge.
Del Pino-Allen, in proper person.
Norton & Blue and Luke Savage and Jenna N. Kochen, for
SUAREZ, LAGOA and SALTER, JJ.
Del Pino-Allen, a non-lawyer representing herself in this
Court and in the circuit court case in which she was the
plaintiff, appeals an order dismissing her complaint with
prejudice. We reverse and remand the case for further
Pino-Allen was a professor at Miami Dade College. After
issuing a statutory notice regarding a public communication
alleged to be false and defamatory, Ms. Pino-Allen sued
another Miami Dade College professor and former colleague,
defendant/appellee Juan Santelises, for slander. Ms.
Pino-Allen alleged that Mr. Santelises made numerous false,
malicious, and defamatory claims to the administration of
Miami Dade College beginning in early 2015. Her complaint
alleged that Mr. Santelises's statements were untrue,
that they included allegations of "frequent acts of
indecent exposure" in public, and that later those
untrue statements became a reason provided by Miami Dade
College for firing her in May 2015.
to the complaint, Mr. Santelises worked with Ms. Pino-Allen
and others on a textbook. He was not her supervisor. Ms.
Pino-Allen alleges that Mr. Santelises made the false and
defamatory statements regarding her in retaliation for her
criticism of mistakes purportedly made by Mr. Santelises in
part of the textbook.
Santelises filed a motion to dismiss the complaint based on
his alleged status as a "public official" entitled
to absolute immunity. The trial court granted the motion to
dismiss with prejudice, and this appeal followed.
review of the dismissal order is de novo. Kendall S. Med.
Ctr., Inc. v. Consol. Ins. Nation, Inc., 219 So.3d 185,
188 (Fla. 3d DCA 2017). In considering the motion to dismiss,
the trial court is limited to the four corners of the
complaint, must accept all allegations within the complaint
as true, and must draw all inferences in favor of the
non-moving party. Id.
pleadings are to be construed liberally, and pro se litigants
should be afforded "procedural latitude, " though
still subject to applicable procedural rules. See
Hanna-Mack v. Bank of Am., N.A., 218 So.3d 971, 973
(Fla. 3d DCA 2017). Here, though occasionally imprecise, Ms.
Pino-Allen's pro se complaint pled the elements of
defamation: (1) publication; (2) falsity; (3) negligence
(when the plaintiff is a private person); (4) damages; and
(5) the defamatory nature of the statement. Jews for
Jesus, Inc. v. Rapp, 997 So.2d 1098, 1106 (Fla. 2008).
Santelises's claim of absolute immunity is not
discernible from the four corners of the complaint and
applicable precedent, at this procedural juncture. It has not
been established that Mr. Santelises occupies a high-ranking,
political position within a governmental entity, or that he
was required by administrative rule to evaluate the job
performance of Ms. Pino-Allen. See City of Miami v.
Wardlow, 403 So.2d 414, 416 (Fla. 1981). Nor do the four
corners of the complaint establish that Mr. Santelises's
allegedly defamatory statements all were made within ...