I live in Florida and recently have been told my former employer is threatening to sue me and 2 other former employees. He said he is going to sue us for defamation/liable/slander, he gained access to a private exchange in my messaging program that the three of us had. The conversation spoke about his character and our personal interactions with him. It also spoke about his staff continuing to use our names via email misrepresenting themselves to our prior clients. I stated as a client of that office, I was not comfortable with this situation and will notify the appropriate licensing agency. But that agency could not do anything about that particular situation. He is threatening to contact my current employer and have us fired for our conversation. I wanted to know if he has a case?

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    Questions asking legal advice are off-topic for this site (but if the question was asked in third person, or as a hypothetical are on-topic). – User37849012643 Jul 8 '19 at 20:38

I wanted to know if he has a case?

At first glance that seems unlikely. However, knowing the exact phrases in that conversation (as in "his character and our personal interactions with him") is crucial because subtleties in the language can make the difference between a statement of opinion and a [false] statement of fact. Only false statements of fact are actionable. Hence the typical mention in judicial proceedings that "truth is an absolute defense [in defamation lawsuits]".

If any of the participants in that conversation made false statement(s) of fact about the employer, then he would have a viable claim of defamation, provided that (a) the falsehoods cause him concrete losses, or (b) although it did not cause him losses, the statements at issue constitute defamation per se (that is, irrespective of the context). Defamation per se typically refers to statements which falsely attribute to him a serious crime or an act of moral turpitude.

In the event of defamation per se, the defamed person would have to prove that the author/publisher of the defamatory statement(s) made it/them with actual malice (meaning that the statement was made with reckless disregard of its truth or falsity, or despite knowing it was false). And only the author/publisher of that statement would be liable to the employer.

By contrast, if it is only that the employer merely disliked your opinions about him and he sues you, he will be wasting his time & money.

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    If this is in a private conversation between three people, never seen by the public or intended to be seen by the public, does that make a difference? – gnasher729 Jul 9 '19 at 9:48
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    @gnasher729 "If this is in a private conversation [...] does that make a difference?" Generally speaking, no. Otherwise many defamers would get away by simply alleging that their conversation was intended to be private. In fact, oftentimes a defamer is interested in spreading falsehoods secretly, that is, behind the plaintiff's back (as my former employer did when he defamed me).There are "exceptions", though, where privacy [of conversations] matters because of its relevance toward establishing that defamation was privileged: That is one of a defendant's attempts to deny actual malice. – Iñaki Viggers Jul 9 '19 at 13:39

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