Defamation Per Se
A defamatory statement is a statement that harms a person's reputation to the extent it lowers that person in the eyes of the community or deters the community from associating with him or her. The tort of defamation refers generically to both spoken and written false statements, sometimes referred to as slander and libel respectively. A person can defame another in person, in writing, or online. The targets of defamation can be both individuals or companies.
Defamation claims are typically divided into two distinct types: defamation per se and defamation per quod. A statement is considered defamatory per se when the defamatory character is clear from the face of the statement. If a statement is defamatory per se, the plaintiff does not need to plead or prove actual damage to his or her reputation to recover. Proof of damages is not required because the words used are considered to be so obviously and materially harmful to the plaintiff that injury to his or her reputation is presumed.
Under Illinois law, the elements of a defamation claim are: (1) a false statement about the plaintiff (2) made to a third party (sometimes referred to by courts as publication) (3) that harms the plaintiff’s reputation. A successful defamation plaintiff can recover money damages and even injunctive relief in some instances. Defendants accused of defamation per se can assert several defenses and privileges to avoid liability for defamation.
Illinois law generally recognizes five types of statements that give rise to a cause of action for defamation per se:
- Words that impute that a person committed a crime;
- Words that impute that a person is infected with a loathsome communicable disease;
- Words that impute an inability to perform or want of integrity in the discharge of the duties of one’s office or employment;
- Words that prejudice a party, or impute a lack of ability, in one’s trade, profession, or business; and
- Words that impute that a person has engaged in adultery or fornication.
The defining characteristic of defamatory per se statements is that the harm to one’s reputation is clear on its face. If extrinsic facts are required to discern why the statement is harmful to the plaintiff’s reputation, then the statement cannot be defamatory per se. Such a statement may still be considered defamatory per quod if proof of actual damages to the plaintiff’s reputation can be proven.Defamation, Slander & Libel
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At Lubin Austermuehle, we help clients navigate the complex laws and emotionally charged pathways to a court victory or settlement in slander and libel cases, as well as a vast range of other disputes from class action suits to breach of contract. We serve clients throughout Chicagoland from Waukegan, to Skokie and beyond. and the Chicagoland area. You can contact us online here or call us at 630-333-0333. Take advantage of our FREE consultation, where we can discuss your specific needs and wishes and our ability to meet them.