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2015 Florida Statutes

SECTION 1224
Prohibition against SLAPP suits.
F.S. 718.1224
718.1224 Prohibition against SLAPP suits.
(1) It is the intent of the Legislature to protect the right of condominium unit owners to exercise their rights to instruct their representatives and petition for redress of grievances before the various governmental entities of this state as protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and s. 5, Art. I of the State Constitution. The Legislature recognizes that strategic lawsuits against public participation, or “SLAPP suits,” as they are typically referred to, have occurred when association members are sued by individuals, business entities, or governmental entities arising out of a condominium unit owner’s appearance and presentation before a governmental entity on matters related to the condominium association. However, it is the public policy of this state that governmental entities, business organizations, and individuals not engage in SLAPP suits, because such actions are inconsistent with the right of condominium unit owners to participate in the state’s institutions of government. Therefore, the Legislature finds and declares that prohibiting such lawsuits by governmental entities, business entities, and individuals against condominium unit owners who address matters concerning their condominium association will preserve this fundamental state policy, preserve the constitutional rights of condominium unit owners, and ensure the continuation of representative government in this state. It is the intent of the Legislature that such lawsuits be expeditiously disposed of by the courts. As used in this subsection, the term “governmental entity” means the state, including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government; the independent establishments of the state, counties, municipalities, districts, authorities, boards, or commissions; or any agencies of these branches that are subject to chapter 286.
(2) A governmental entity, business organization, or individual in this state may not file or cause to be filed through its employees or agents any lawsuit, cause of action, claim, cross-claim, or counterclaim against a condominium unit owner without merit and solely because such condominium unit owner has exercised the right to instruct his or her representatives or the right to petition for redress of grievances before the various governmental entities of this state, as protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and s. 5, Art. I of the State Constitution.
(3) A condominium unit owner sued by a governmental entity, business organization, or individual in violation of this section has a right to an expeditious resolution of a claim that the suit is in violation of this section. A condominium unit owner may petition the court for an order dismissing the action or granting final judgment in favor of that condominium unit owner. The petitioner may file a motion for summary judgment, together with supplemental affidavits, seeking a determination that the governmental entity’s, business organization’s, or individual’s lawsuit has been brought in violation of this section. The governmental entity, business organization, or individual shall thereafter file its response and any supplemental affidavits. As soon as practicable, the court shall set a hearing on the petitioner’s motion, which shall be held at the earliest possible time after the filing of the governmental entity’s, business organization’s, or individual’s response. The court may award the condominium unit owner sued by the governmental entity, business organization, or individual actual damages arising from the governmental entity’s, individual’s, or business organization’s violation of this section. A court may treble the damages awarded to a prevailing condominium unit owner and shall state the basis for the treble damages award in its judgment. The court shall award the prevailing party reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred in connection with a claim that an action was filed in violation of this section.
(4) Condominium associations may not expend association funds in prosecuting a SLAPP suit against a condominium unit owner.
History.s. 13, ch. 2008-28.