Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Weeks v. Town of Palm Beach

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

July 25, 2018

JASON WEEKS, Appellant,
v.
TOWN OF PALM BEACH, a municipality of the State of Florida; PETER B. ELWELL, Town Manager and in his individual capacity; KIRK BLOUIN, Director of Public Safety and in his individual capacity; DARREL DONATTO, Deputy Fire Chief and in his individual capacity; DANIELLE OLSON, Director of Human Resources and in her individual capacity; DAN SZARSZEWSKI, Deputy Police Chief and in his individual capacity; BRODIE ATWATER, Assistant Fire Chief and in his individual capacity; MARGARET COOPER, in her individual capacity; JOHN CUOMO, in his individual capacity; RICHARD WARD, in his individual capacity; MARK BRADSHAW, in his individual capacity; DANNY DUNNAM, in his individual capacity; JAMES DUANE, in his individual capacity; PETER CODISPOTI, in his individual capacity; and BRIAN FULLER, in his individual capacity, Appellees.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, Palm Beach County; Jeffrey Dana Gillen, Judge; L.T. Case No. 502015CA103586XXXXMB.

          Jonathan O'Boyle of The O'Boyle Law Firm, Deerfield Beach, for appellant.

          Robert W. Wilkins of Jones, Foster, Johnston & Stubbs, P.A., West Palm Beach, for appellees.

          FAHNESTOCK, FABIENNE E., ASSOCIATE JUDGE.

         Jason Weeks, the Appellant, filed an amended complaint for fraud, conspiracy to defame, negligent supervision, negligent interference with a prospective advantageous business relationship, [1] prevention of due process, and injunctive relief against the Town of Palm Beach ("the Town") and several individual defendants, [2] personally and in their official capacities (collectively, "the Appellees"). The complaint was based upon an alleged series of events that caused his demotion within, and eventual termination from, the Town's Fire and Rescue Department. Upon motion, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Appellees. Weeks appealed the judgment, and he raises five issues on appeal, but only two merit discussion.[3] We affirm the trial court's decision as to each issue.

         In his complaint, Weeks claimed that while employed by the Town's Fire and Rescue Department, and with full support of his command staff, he created a website that offered public facts and opinions about the Town's proposed changes to the department's pension plan. Thereafter, the Town fired Weeks' superior, Chief William Amador, for his role in the site's creation and his alleged untruthfulness regarding such role. Weeks claimed that after he met with the allegedly displeased Appellees, the Appellees planned a scheme to gather false and defamatory statements and fabricate documents and records with malicious intent towards him. He asserted that the plan brought about several investigations throughout 2011 and 2012, which resulted in his demotion and ultimate termination.

         On December 9, 2015, Weeks filed his initial complaint against the Appellees. In it, he alleged that the action was "for defamation, negligent supervision, tortious interference with a prospective advantageous business relationship, and civil conspiracy . . . ." Five months later, he filed his first amended complaint in which he alleged that the action was "for defamation, conspiracy to defame, tortious interference with a prospective business relationship, and intentional infliction of emotional distress . . . ."

         After a hearing where the trial court considered the defense of absolute immunity, Weeks filed a second amended complaint. In it, Weeks stated that the action was "for Common Law Fraud, Conspiracy to Defame, Negligent Supervision, Negligent Interference with a Prospective Advantageous Business Relationship, Prevention of Due Process and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress . . . ." The complaint's general allegations and facts closely mirrored those of the first amended complaint. Within the second amended complaint, Weeks discussed allegedly false, malicious, critical, disparaging, inaccurate, misleading, wrongful, and fraudulent statements and accusations that were allegedly damaging to his personal and professional reputation.

         After Weeks filed his second amended complaint, the Appellees filed joint motions to dismiss and for summary judgment. After a hearing on the motions, the trial court found, among other things, that the Appellees were acting within "the scope of their duties as set forth in codified rules and under direction of their superiors." It concluded that the statements made by the individual defendants were "protected by an absolute privilege." Consequently, the trial court granted the motion for summary judgment, and within the order granting the motion, the court specifically noted that the order rendered the motion to dismiss moot.

         Standard of Review

         This court reviews summary judgment orders de novo. See Weinstein Design Grp., Inc. v. Fielder, 884 So.2d 990, 997 (Fla. 4th DCA 2004). "'When reviewing a ruling on summary judgment, an appellate court must examine the record and any supporting affidavits in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.'" Id. (quoting City of Lauderhill v. Rhames, 864 So.2d 432, 434 n.1 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003)).

         Defamation

         "The question of whether allegedly defamatory statements are absolutely privileged is one of law to be decided by the court, Resha v. Tucker, 670 So.2d 56, 59 (Fla. 1996), and consequently is ripe for determination on motion for summary judgment." Stephens v. Geoghegan, 702 So.2d 517, 522 (Fla. 2d DCA 1997). Public officials are absolutely immune from claims for defamation where their allegedly defamatory statements are made within the scope ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.