Although many people feel that they may have a greater degree of freedom on the Internet due to its anonymous nature, virtually anything posted online can be traced back to the original IP address which was used to upload the content. That IP address can often be used to identify the individual who created the post.
A lawyer recently won a defamation lawsuit against a former client over this very issue. The attorney, Jan Hinson, alleged that her client, Vivek Pampattiwar, lied to her when she asked if a divorce action was pending. Pampattiwar allegedly said that his wife had not filed a counterclaim for divorce in his maintenance action in a separate county, despite the fact that he knew otherwise. Pampattiwar also allegedly failed to inform Hinson that she was the sixth attorney to represent him in the litigation with his wife.
Hinson allegedly checked an online docket to verify that no counterclaim had been filed before she filed a divorce action on behalf of Pampattiwar in Gwinnett County. The online docket, though, was incorrect. Pampattiwar had brought documents to the consultation with Hinson that allegedly showed that counterclaims had, in fact, been filed, but Hinson never read those documents. When Hinson discovered the counterclaims, she dismissed the divorce suit, but then she took over representation for Pampattiwar in another litigation after his lawyer withdrew from the case.
Pampattiwar allegedly resisted dismissing the divorce that Hinson had filed based on misinformation, indicated that he would pay more to have the case litigated in Gwinnett County, and took documents from her office to try to impede the dismissal of the divorce. Hinson later sought to withdraw from the representation and her motion was granted. However, Pampattiwar allegedly begged Hinson to represent him during arbitration until Hinson agreed. Then in October, Hinson allegedly contacted the law firm because he was upset about his legal bills. The complaint which Hinson filed against him alleges that Pampattiwar told a paralegal that Hinson and her staff were crooks.
The very next month, Hinson noticed a sudden significant drop in business. According to her complaint, the phones of her law office “stopped ringing”. Her staff discovered negative reviews of the law firm on Kudzu.com which called her “a CROOK Lawyer” and an “Extremely Fraudulent Lady”. The reviews were traced to an IP address which was associated with Pampattiwar.
During his testimony in the trial, Pampattiwar denied that he had failed to notify Hinson of the counterclaims in the divorce and denied posting the negative reviews of her law practice. The court ruled in Hinson’s favor, with a jury award of around $400,000, and Pampattiwar appealed the decision. In the appellate court, Pampattiwar argued that Hinson should not have relied exclusively on the online docket.
The appellate court upheld the lower court’s ruling. Reginald Greene, representing Pampattiwar in the defamation lawsuit, called the award “improper and excessive”.
Hinson has said that her screening process for taking on new clients has become more stringent as a result of her experiences with Pampattiwar.
Our Chicago libel 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 defamation 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 Schaumburg, and Palatine, 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 Wheaton and Glendale Hts. defamation and libel attorneys 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 LaGrange and Hinsdale, 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.