MARY M. CAMERON, Ph.D., Appellant,
NICOLE A. JASTREMSKI, Ph.D., Appellee.
final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit,
Palm Beach County; Cheryl A. Caracuzzo, Judge; L.T. Case No.
William R. Amlong, Karen Coolman Amlong and Isha Kochhar of
Amlong & Amlong, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, for appellant.
E. Marrero and Lourdes E. Wydler of Marrero & Wydler,
Coral Gables, for appellee.
an appeal from an order granting a motion to dismiss based on
absolute immunity in a defamation action between two teaching
colleagues at a local university. We reverse because
appellee's entitlement to claim absolute immunity does
not appear on the face of the complaint. Rather, in this
case, the issue is one of proof, which may be raised at
a limited evidentiary hearing or on summary judgment.
appeal from an order granting a motion to dismiss, we take
the factual allegations of the complaint as true and consider
them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
See, e.g., Palm Beach-Broward Med.
Imaging Ctr., Inc. v. Cont'l Grain Co., 715 So.2d
343, 344 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998).
alleged in her complaint, Mary Cameron is a senior member of
the anthropology department at Florida Atlantic University
("FAU"). Nicole Jastremski is a visiting instructor
of anthropology and an unsuccessful candidate for a
tenure-track position as an assistant professor at the
university. Following Jastremski's rejection for the
position, she sent a letter to the dean complaining about a
series of derogatory statements Cameron made to Jastremski
about her fellow professors and the department. Jastremski
also shared these statements with the department secretary,
other colleagues in the department, and a former colleague
who teaches at the University of Miami.
denied making any of the statements attributed to her.
filed a single count complaint for defamation against
Jastremski. Jastremski moved to dismiss the complaint,
asserting she was entitled to absolute immunity as a matter
of law because her actions were within the scope of her
duties as a public employee. The circuit court granted the
We have previously described an absolute privilege:
"[A]bsolute privileges" are based chiefly upon a
recognition of the necessity that certain persons, because of
their special position or status, should be as free as
possible from fear that their actions in that position might
have an adverse effect upon their own personal interests. To
accomplish this, it is necessary for them to be protected not
only from civil liability, but also from the danger of even
an unsuccessful civil action. To this end, it is necessary
that the propriety of their conduct not be inquired into
indirectly by either court or jury in civil proceedings
brought against them for misconduct in their position.
Therefor[e] the privilege, or immunity, is absolute and the
protection that it affords is complete. It is not conditioned
upon the honest and reasonable belief that the defamatory
matter is true or upon the absence of ill will on the part of
Cassell v. India, 964 So.2d 190, 193 (Fla. 4th DCA
2007) (quoting Fridovich v. Fridovich, 598 So.2d 65,
68 (Fla. 1992)). "In Florida, '[p]ublic officials
who make statements within the scope of their duties are
absolutely immune from suit for defamation.'"
Id. (quoting Stephens v. Geoghegan, 702
So.2d 517, 522 (Fla. 2d DCA 1997)). As explained by the Fifth
District in Alfino v. Dep't of Health & Rehab.
Servs., 676 So.2d 447, 449 (Fla. 5th DCA 1996):
Conduct is within the scope of one's employment if it is
the type of conduct which the employee is hired to perform,
the conduct occurs substantially within the time and space
limits authorized or requested by the work to be performed,
and the conduct is ...