Although our laws are meant to protect everyone, regardless of income or social status, the fact remains that filing or defending oneself from a lawsuit costs money and hiring competent attorneys costs even more money. Many people simply don’t have the funds to pursue a dispute in court, and too often, large corporations, flush with assets and a dedicated legal team, are all too aware of that fact and they take advantage of it.
When someone files a lawsuit against a person or entity with the goal of silencing the defending party, it’s known as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP). Because SLAPPs tend to be aimed at those with fewer resources, corporations generally count on the defendant giving up the case and/or settling outside of court. But if a defendant decides to continue with the lawsuit, the plaintiff could be the one made to pay up in court.
Legislators know SLAPPs are unfair and harmful to our democracy, which is why many states have anti-SLAPP laws that punish people and organizations for filing a lawsuit purely with the intention of shutting someone up.
When the Animal Legal Defense Fund spoke out against alleged mistreatment of four white tigers by Landry’s Inc., Landry’s responded by filing a defamation lawsuit against the animal rights company in Harris County.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund has been accusing Landry’s of allegedly keeping four white Bengal tigers (Nero, Coral, Reef, and Marina) in inadequate housing where they were not given access to adequate fresh or air sunlight and allegedly had not been outside for more than a decade.
Landry’s went a few steps beyond denying the allegations and filed a defamation lawsuit against the Animal Legal Defense Fund in November 2016.
In order to be considered defamation, the plaintiff needs to prove, not only that the allegations are false, but that the defendant knew the allegations were false at the time they were made and made the allegations with the intention of harming the plaintiff.
Whether Landry’s could have proven defamation, if given the chance, is no longer the point. Lawyers for the Animal Legal Defense Fund argued the defamation lawsuit had all the markings of a SLAPP and was filed with the sole intention of silencing the organization on a topic Landry’s did not want brought to the public’s attention. Judge Steven Kirkland sided with the animal rights group and dismissed the lawsuit.
Judge Kirkland ordered Landry’s to pay the legal fees the Animal Legal Defense Fund had incurred in the course of defending the lawsuit, an award that totaled almost $175,000. He also ordered Landry’s to pay $250,000 to the Animal Legal Defense Fund and $200,000 to Cheryl Conley, an animal welfare activist who was listed as another defendant in the lawsuit. In his decision against Landry’s, Judge Kirkland noted that the additional awards he was ordering the company to pay were intended as a warning against other people or organizations who might consider filing similar SLAPPs against their fellow citizens in the future.
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 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 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 Wilmette and Glenview 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 DuPage County defamation and slander lawyers near Aurora and Bolingbrook 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 Naperville, Schaumburg, and Evanston, 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.