Articles Posted in Defamation, Libel and Slander

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When John Oliver spoofed West Virginia coal magnate Bob Murray he was following in a tradition in our country that pre-dates the founding fathers.  Embedded in our constitution is the right to criticize public figures on important.  Lawsuits shouldn’t be used as a weapon to quash such speech.  Below is a photograph from a recent West Virginia ACLU brief attacking Murray for his use of allegedly frivolous libel lawsuits as part of a long running campaign to quash media criticism of him.

 

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The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was specifically designed to allow for the free and open discussion of public figures – notably politicians, but all public figures (celebrities, entertainers, influencers, etc.) are subject to a certain amount of public scrutiny.

Because the law recognizes that talk can do real damage, defamation is still a punishable offense, but it’s the responsibility of the plaintiff to prove the statement was false, the person/entity making the statement knew it was false at the time the statement was made/published, and that the plaintiff suffered actual damages as a direct result.

That’s a lot to prove, and yet many public figures continue to file often baseless defamation lawsuits for large amounts of money, apparently just in the hopes of getting the other side to shut up.

Bob Murray, who owns Murray Energy Corp., a coal company, has responded to a monologue John Oliver did on his show, Last Week Tonight, by suing Oliver, his writers, HBO, and Time Warner. Although the company insisted it does not file anti-speech lawsuits, Oliver pointed out on his show that, in addition to suing large media corporations, such as The New York Times, Murray Energy has also sued local newspapers, such as the Akron Beacon Journal, for as much as $1 billion. Continue reading

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Our Naperville 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 Lisle and Elmhurst 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.

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No one makes accusations of sexual assault lightly. Women who come forward with claims that men (especially famous men) sexually harassed and/or assaulted them face ridicule and threats to do so without serious consideration. And yet women who do come forward to accuse men of sexual assault are often harassed and accused of making up stories to get attention.

One woman recently sued President Trump for defamation and has faced such a back lash and now the President claims he is immune from her libel suit during the term of his Presidency.

Summer Zervos, a California restaurant-owner who was on “The Apprentice” in 2006, alleged Trump sexually assaulted her when she met with him in 2007 to discuss a potential job with the Trump Organization.

During his presidential campaign, numerous women came forward to say that Trump had sexually assaulted them, especially after a video was released in which Trump bragged about women letting him grab them because he was famous. Trump has asserted that all the women accusing him of sexual assault were making up stories and spreading lies about him.

Zevos filed a lawsuit in New York State Court alleging Trump’s very loud and very public dismissal of her accusations defamed her and she is seeking the appropriate compensation as a result. Continue reading

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In case you did not know, homemade slime is one the the biggest fads out there!  Even a Kardashian child, Penelope Disick has a homemade video upload on Instagram featuring a do-it-yourself tutorial.  In fact, there are “slime alternatives” for those parents that are sick of buying glue.  The buck, however, does not stop there.  Aspects of litigation now involve slime.

Only just recently there was a  trial to determine whether ABC defamed a South Dakota meat producer’s products that critics dubbed “pink slime” provided a boost to area business before it ended with a settlement.

Beef Products Inc. said in a report that an ABC News correspondent misled consumers about the safety of low-cost processed beef trimmings, which are officially known as “lean finely textured beef.”  Nowadays, It is more commonly known as “pink slime” due to its appearance. The company had sought $1.9 billion in damages, but the figure could have grown to as much as $5.7 billion under a South Dakota law. Such reports caused a backlash against the product that eventually cost the meat processor millions of dollars in sales, forcing it to close three of its four plants. ABC defended its stories as being factual and providing vital information to consumers. Continue reading

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The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives everyone the right to speak freely about virtually everything and everyone, so long as what they say is not false or doesn’t infringe on intellectual property rights. People are free to voice opinions that do not contain factually false information. This protection includes negative reviews of companies providing products and services, but many legislators currently feel that consumers are in need of an extra layer of protection.

The internet and review sites like Yelp have made it easier than ever for customers to post public reviews of companies as soon as the transaction has been completed. While that may not sound threatening, a few bad reviews can significantly decrease a company’s overall rating and hinder future business, even when the subject of the complaint is insignificant and arbitrary.

So businesses have started retaliating by including clauses in their consumer contracts that forbid their customers from posting negative online reviews. Some companies have even acted on their threats by taking legal action against consumers who post negative reviews, usually for unreasonably large amounts of money when compared the transaction in question. For example, one hotel in New York charged $500 per negative review posted to Yelp, while another company sued a couple in Utah for thousands of dollars over a negative review pertaining to a small purchase. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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Peoples’ worst sides often come out on social media and online comments sections because there’s a sense of anonymity and unaccountability – even if that sense is misleading. Often people post whatever comes to mind without worrying about any consequences, but as one North Carolina woman recently found out the hard way, sometimes there are legal and financial consequences to what you allegedly say online.

According to a recent lawsuit filed in Asheville, NC, by Davyne Dial, Jacquelyn Hammond allegedly posted a Facebook comment, referring to Dial, that said, “I didn’t get drunk and kill my kid.”

Dial’s son had, in fact, been killed in an accidental shooting back in 1976, when the boy was eleven years old. Dial was not involved in the accident, but Hammond’s words hit her hard.

In her complaint, Dial alleged this was not the first defamatory comment Hammond had made about her online, but it was allegedly the last straw. Not only was it extremely painful, but it allegedly amounted to Hammond accusing Dial of committing manslaughter, which is a federal offense. Continue reading

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Few people take much of what Trump says seriously, especially when he goes on one of his Twitter rants. According to Judge Barbara Jaffe, a New York judge, that includes allegedly defamatory remarks Trump makes about people who criticizes him.

In the spring of 2015, Cheryl Jacobus, a public relations consultant, was allegedly invited by Trump’s campaign to interview for the position of communications director for the campaign. Jacobus said she declined because she did not want to work for Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager at the time.

More than six months later, Jacobus went on television to question Trump’s motives for threatening to not attend presidential debates, as well as his claims that he was completely funding his own campaign. She criticized his debating skills and insulted his intelligence. Trump, as always, fired back on Twitter.

Trump’s tweets claimed Jacobus “begged” his campaign to hire her and they turned her down. He also implied she was merely disgruntled from having been rejected and that was why she was making the negative comments about Trump on TV. Furthermore, Trump also claimed Jacobus had no credibility. Continue reading

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Companies will try anything to get the attention of their audience, and in today’s Digital Age, that can include, according to a recent defamation lawsuit’s allegations, utilizing various user names to post comments on their own blog posts.

The blog post involved in the current lawsuit was posted on Jezebel and pertained to another defamation lawsuit filed by Meanith Huon against Above the Law for how it reported his acquittal from accusations of sexual assault. The comments section of the Jezebel article included an allegation that, despite his acquittal, Huon was still a rapist and should be referred to as such.  Huon denies these allegations and contends they are defamatory.

Huon responded by filing a second defamation lawsuit, this time against Jezebel for the blog post, its headline, as well as some of the statements that were made in the post’s comments section which he claims are false.

Because bloggers only have limited control over the comments that get posted on their websites, and because the point of the comments is to promote free and open discussion, they are protected. The comments themselves are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Communications Decency Act protects online publishers from allegations of defamation when it comes to comments posted on their site by third-party users. Continue reading

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Business relationships are often just as complicated as personal relationships, and the longer the relationship, the messier the breakup can be. In a perfect world, people would be able to accept that things change and allow both their loved ones and their coworkers to move on when the time comes. Unfortunately, the pain and sense of betrayal felt by those left behind often makes them do inadvisable things.

One person who allegedly couldn’t let it go was Garrett Patten, the owner of Patten Industries, a Caterpillar heavy equipment dealer located in DuPage County of Illinois. According to a recent defamation lawsuit filed against both Patten Industries and its owner, Garrett Patten allegedly retaliated by seeking to destroy a former employee’s reputation after he left the company to work for a competitor.

Michael Jaworski started working for Patten Industries in 2001 and worked his way up to sales manager. In 2013 he allegedly notified his superiors that he had received a job offer from a competitor, but had turned it down, even though he was not entirely happy working for Patten Industries. According to Jaworski’s lawsuit Garrett Patten allegedly threatened Jaworski, comparing it to an ugly divorce if Jaworski ever did quit. Continue reading