Brief Overview of Defamation

Basic Anatomy of an Illinois Defamation Claims

“Defamation” is injury to reputation based on an unprivileged false statement of fact published to third parties. The law once separated defamation into libel (written words) and slander (spoken words). Defamation is an ever-evolving body of law with its roots in the English common law (although every legal system on earth recognizes injury to reputation in some form, because such injury is so fundamental in human relations of all kinds).

Defamatory statements are per se and per quod. A statement is defamatory per se when the injury to reputation is apparent based only the words used, i.e, when the words themselves (per se) obviously harm the plaintiff’s reputation such that injury is presumed and the plaintiff need not prove the fact of injury. Illinois considers five categories of statements or publications to be defamatory per se:

  • Imputation of the commission of a crime;
  • Imputation of infection with a loathsome communicable disease;
  • Imputation of a want of integrity or inability to perform or discharge of the duties of one’s office or employment;
  • Imputation of a lack of ability in or that prejudice a person in his or her trade, profession, or business; and
  • False accusations of adultery or fornication.

A defamation per quod claim is where the defamatory nature of a statement is - unlike a per se defamation - not apparent from the words themselves, even to the extent the words themselves may not identify the plaintiff directly. In per quod cases, extrinsic evidence, i.e., words beyond the alleged defamatory statement, must prove that the subject statement is of or about the plaintiffs and injures the plaintiffs’ reputation. Also, per quod claims can arise when an alleged defamatory statement may injure reputation but does not fall within one of the five classes of actionable per se statements above.

The attorneys at Lubin Austermuehle have over thirty years of experience defending and prosecuting defamation, slander libel and cyber smear lawsuits. We are knowledgeable regarding the changes and complexities of this evolving area of the law. You can view here a federal court opinion where our client defeated a libel per se claim with an innocent infringer defense. Here is an arbitration decision where our client prevailed at an evidentiary hearing. We proved through cross-examination of the defendant car dealer's president that our client's 20 plus Youtube videos criticizing the dealership for engaging in consumer fraud were truthful, were protected opinions under the First Amendment or involved minor errors of fact. These cases received extensive press coverage. You can view the press coverage here and here. We also obtained an apology and full retraction for our large diamond dealer client as part of a confidential financial settlement following our filing of a $16 million libel suit in federal court. You can read about that case here.

We are committed to fighting for our clients' rights in the courtroom and at the negotiating table. Conveniently located in Chicago and Elmhurst, Illinois, we have successfully litigated defamation, trade libel, internet defamation, and cyber smear cases for clients all over the Chicago area. To schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys, you can contact us online or give us a call at 630-333-0333.

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I was referred to Peter Lubin from someone in the car business to handle a law suit. From the moment I made the appointment Peter and his staff were outstanding. This wasn't an easy case, most lawyers had turned me down. However, Peter took the time to meet with me and review everything. He took on the case, and constantly communicated with me about updates and case information. We beat this non-compete agreement case in record time. I would use him again and recommend him to my closest family and friends. 5 stars is not enough to thank him for his service. Sebastian R.
I worked on two occasions with Peter Lubin and his staff. They took their time with me and discussed each and every item in detail. The group makes you feel like you are part of the family and not just another hourly charge. I recommend Peter to anyone who asks me for a referral. If you are looking for a top notch attorney at a reasonable rate, look no further than Lubin Austermuehle. Kurt A.
Excellent law firm. My case was a complicated arbitration dispute from another state. Was handled with utmost professionalism and decency. Mr. Peter Lubin was able to successfully resolve the case on my behalf and got me a very favorable settlement. Would recommend to anyone looking for a serious law firm. Great staff and great lawyers! Albey L.
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