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Cosby Case Proves that the Line Between Freedom of Speech and Defamation Can Be a Fine One

The line between freedom of speech and defamation can be a fine line at times. Although the First Amendment to the United States Constitution allows us to speak our minds, it does not give us total immunity when saying things that have the potential to seriously damage another person’s reputation and/or career.

That line is again being contested in a current defamation lawsuit against Bill Cosby. Three women, Tamara Green, Therese Serignese, and Linda Traitz, who are just three of dozens of women who claim they were sexually assaulted by Cosby decades ago are now filing a lawsuit against the entertainer for defamation.

The lawsuit alleges Cosby’s representatives damaged their reputations by denying their allegations of sexual assault in language that was sometimes disparaging. They claim their accusations were dismissed as “ridiculous claims” and “absurd fabrications” to give two of the shorter alleged remarks. The lawsuit alleges these comments were intended to discredit the victims. One statement allegedly touched on Traitz’s criminal and personal record to discredit her allegations.

Although the women have been accusing Cosby of sexual assault for decades, the issue has only recently gained media attention. Over the past year, the story has been covered by various media outlets, including Huffington Post, US Magazine, and NY Daily News. “Dateline NBC” even aired a special in which 29 of Cosby’s accusers were interviewed together about their experiences.

Cosby has never been charged with a crime and he continues to deny the allegations of sexual assault. However, court documents unsealed earlier this summer did reveal that Cosby had admitted in 2005 to having extramarital relationships with several women, including some of those who have accused him of sexual assault.

Cosby’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the defamation lawsuit, arguing the remarks were personal opinions and legal declarations made in defense of Cosby’s reputation, and therefore protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment.

Recently, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Mastroianni in Boston released his 38-page ruling, in which he refused Cosby’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Mastroianni acknowledged the First Amendment’s ability to permit a person to publish defamatory statements in order to defend their reputation (and, in this case, Cosby’s career, which has also suffered as a result of the allegations). However, Mastroianni denied that the freedom granted by the First Amendment extended to allowing a person to publish statements they knew to be false.

Joseph Cammarata, who is defending the three plaintiffs, said they had expected and hoped for the judge to deny Cosby’s motion to dismiss the defamation lawsuit. He also said the plaintiffs are looking forward to restoring their reputations by proving the falseness of Cosby’s claims in court.

Women who come forward with accusations of rape are often subject to attacks on their reputation, and many of them never recover. Although it is too late for any of these women to get reparation in court for the terrible atrocities they allege were committed against them, it is not too late for them to get some compensation for the damage their reputations suffered as a direct result of coming forward with their accusations of sexual assault.

Our Chicago libel and slander lawyers concentrate in this area of the law. We have defended or prosecuted a number of defamation and libel cases including cases representing a high profile athlete against a well known radio shock jock, a consumer sued by a large car dealer in federal court for negative internet reviews and videos, one of Loyola University’s largest contributors when the head basketball coach sued him for libel after he was fired, 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.

Our Chicago defamation attorneys¬†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 off line 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 attorneys Peter Lubin and Vincent DiTommaso Super Lawyers in the Categories of Class Action, Business Litigation and Consumer Rights Litigation. DiTommaso-Lubin’s Oak Brook and Chicago business trial lawyers have over a quarter of century of experience in litigating complex class action, consumer rights and business and commercial litigation disputes. We handle emergency business law suits 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.

DiTommaso-Lubin’s Naperville¬†and Evanston 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 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 Skokie, Orland Park and Joliet, 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 on line at Yelp or anywhere else, contact one of our Oak Brook and Chicago defamation lawyers for a free consultation at (877) 990-4990 or online by filling out our contact us form.