In the United States, the law states that anyone accused of committing a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, the public has a tendency to make up its own mind before all of the facts are available. Because of this, a lawsuit, if its allegations are untrue or not based on evidence, can in certain instances do serious damage to the reputation of a person or corporation, even if the lawsuit is ultimately unsuccessful.
One example of this is defendants who are accused of sexual assault. Just the accusation is enough to render the defendant a social leper. When a person’s reputation has sustained severe damage as a result of false accusations made outside the context of lawsuit, that person has the option of recovering those damages by filing a defamation lawsuit.
The problem with defamation lawsuits is that the courts have to walk a fine line between protecting the rights of the individual and protecting the right to free speech. Generally, private citizens have a higher chance of recovering damages from a defamation lawsuit, as the right to discuss public figures is considered to be in the best interest of the public. However, if the plaintiff can prove that the defamatory statements were false, and that the defendant knew they were false, courts will generally rule in favor of the plaintiff.
When a teacher is accused of sexually assaulting a student, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, for that teacher to ever find work again. As a result, a teacher who is wrongly accused of sexual assault, if the accusations are published outside the confines of a privileged setting such as a lawsuit or criminal complaint, can file a defamation lawsuit to recover damages for lost employment opportunities. This is exactly what Peter Ludlow, a philosophy professor at Northwestern University, has done. The student involved contests these claims.
In 2012, the student filed a complaint with the University, alleging that Ludlow had gotten her drunk and then sexually assaulted her when she was still underage. Ludlow denies all these claims.
The woman then filed a Title IX lawsuit in federal court against the University, claiming that the school had mishandled her complaint against Ludlow. The University insists that it has appropriate policies and procedures in place to deal with such situations, but the student decided to pursue her claim by filing a lawsuit against Ludlow to recover damages she alleges he owes her for the alleged assault.
The woman has since filed a separate lawsuit against Ludlow for allegedly violating the Illinois Gender Violence Act.
Ludlow has filed two lawsuits of his own: one against the University for allegedly violating his Title IX rights in the course of the investigation, and another against the student for alleged defamation. In his case against the student, Ludlow claims she falsely accused him because he allegedly refused her advances after they attended an art show together. The alleged incident occurred months after she attended one of his classes.
Ludlow alleges she tried to contact him by phone, social media, and text messages several times in the days after the art show. She then allegedly insisted on a meeting, but Ludlow allegedly said he did not want to date her.
The University’s investigation into the incident, according to published news reports, found that Ludlow drank with the student and “engaged in unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances” by rubbing her back and kissing her. The investigation also found that the student had been drunk and woke up the next morning with Ludlow’s arms around her. However, the University was unable to substantiate the student’s claims that Ludlow groped her. Ludlow denies the University’s findings that he did anything wrong and the student contests some of the findings as well.
As a result of the investigation, the University revoked Ludlow’s appointment as an endowed professor, denied him a pay raise, and banned him from contacting the student. Ludlow did not finish teaching his 300-level philosophy course for the Winter Quarter and did not teach in the spring or fall. Both the student and Ludlow deny the version of events portrayed by the other and some of the University’s findings. Sorting out conflicting stories in these circumstances is often difficult.
Our Chicago defamation and slander attorneys concentrate in this area of the law. We have defended or prosecuted a number of defamation and libel cases, including cases representing a consumer sued by a large luxury used car dealer in federal court for hundreds of negative internet reviews and videos which resulted in substantial media coverage of the suit; one of Loyola University’s largest contributors when the head basketball coach sued him for libel after he was fired; and a lawyer who was falsely accused of committing fraud with the false allegation published to the Dean of the University of Illinois School of Law, where the lawyer attended law school and the President of the University of Illinois. One of our partners also participated in representing a high profile athlete against a well-known radio shock jock.
Our Chicago libel lawyers defend individuals’ First Amendment and free speech rights to post on Facebook, Yelp and other websites information that criticizes businesses and addresses matters of public concern. Our Chicago Cybersquatting attorneys also represent and prosecute claims on behalf of businesses throughout the Chicago area including in Naperville, Burr Ridge, and Hinsdale, who have been unfairly and falsely criticized by consumers and competitors in defamatory publications in the online and offline media. We have successfully represented businesses who have been the victim of competitors setting up false rating sites and pretend consumer rating sites that are simply forums to falsely bash or business clients. We have also represented and defended consumers First Amendment and free speech rights to criticize businesses who are guilty of consumer fraud and false advertising.
Super Lawyers named Chicago and Oak Brook business trial attorney Peter Lubin a Super Lawyer in the Categories of Class Action, Business Litigation, and Consumer Rights Litigation. Lubin Austermuehle’s Oak Brook and Chicago business trial lawyers have over a quarter of a century of experience in litigating complex class action, consumer rights, and business and commercial litigation disputes. We handle emergency business lawsuits involving injunctions, and TROS, defamation, libel, and covenant not to compete, franchise, distributor and dealer wrongful termination and trade secret lawsuits and many different kinds of business disputes involving shareholders, partnerships, closely held businesses and employee breaches of fiduciary duty. We also assist businesses and business owners who are victims of fraud or defamatory attacks on their business and reputations.
Lubin Austermuehle’s Naperville and Hinsdale defamation and slander lawyers have more than two and half decades of experience helping business clients unravel the complexities of Illinois and out-of-state business laws. Our Chicago business, commercial, class-action, and consumer litigation lawyers represent individuals, family businesses and enterprises of all sizes in a variety of legal disputes, including disputes among partners and shareholders as well as lawsuits between businesses and consumer rights, auto fraud, and wage claim individual and class action cases. In every case, our goal is to resolve disputes as quickly and successfully as possible, helping business clients protect their investments and get back to business as usual. From offices in Oak Brook, near Aurora and Waukegan, we serve clients throughout Illinois and the Midwest.
If you are the victim of a defamatory attack on your business or a consumer who has been sued to stop you from posting criticism of a business online at Yelp or anywhere else, contact one of our Oak Brook and Chicago defamation lawyers for a free consultation at 630-333-0333 or online by filling out our contact us form.