Articles Posted in Defamation, Libel and Slander

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Our previous blog post, we discussed the ramifications of posting online reviews anonymously. In that case, a state appeals court ruled that in order to enforce a subpoena for the identities of former employees who had commented anonymously on the workplace review site, the plaintiff must prove the falsity of the comments and suffer a financial loss. A similar issue was revisited by the courts in a situation where alleged defamatory remarks were made and photos in support of remarks were also retrieved by trespass onto the property by an incident of various online reviews and the defendant happened to be a landlord.

More specifically, the decision pertaining to this incident happened to be a real estate entrepreneur with properties in three different states  and claimed that Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, as well as, flyers distributed near his home, accused him of being a “greedy slumlord,” who subjected his tenants and neighborhoods to bad conditions. The defendants were sued because it hosted the web sites and possessed real estate interests which could potentially damage his business. The complaint alleged diversity jurisdiction.

Accordingly, plaintiff proceeded to file an ex parte motion for early discovery seeking to identify his critics. In these motions, any relevant section of law which could apply or the basis for his assertion of diversity jurisdiction was never mentioned. The other party wanted to move to dismiss and seek sanctions for frivolous litigation. It had to then be pointed out to the trial judge that the lawsuit pending before him lacked any jurisdiction, and was not a proper basis for the issuance of federal court subpoenas for that reason. Continue reading

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Posting online has become a norm in this tech savvy world that we live in.  For greater transparency in a review, some may choose to post anonymously in fear of ramifications if their name disclosure came about.  Just recently, the ability of an employer being able to find out which employee employer-rated an employer unfairly or inaccurately was assessed by the Courts. This is since some would argue that surely the law protects against outrageous false statements that harm an employer’s ability to recruit talent.  That is why a California appeals court recently ruled that businesses have to prove online comments are false and financially harmful before they can unmask anonymous critics via subpoenas.  It can thus be seen that the decision has First Amendment implications which safeguard people’s right to free speech and this was valued as being the greater consideration.

A suit under the anonymous posting was brought forwards for libel and for violating California law regarding online impersonation.  A request was placed for assistance from the courts in an ability to be able to retrieve the identity of the postings. Initially, the trial court turned the employer down and this was again examined by a California Court of Appeal.Subsequently, the lengthy opinion was issued and a conclusion was drawn indicating that to force a disclosure of the names, a plaintiff must state a legally sufficient cause of action comprising of the following elements of that cause of action:  (1) the courts determining these issues must ensure that reasonable efforts are made to notify the unknown defendants so they can respond and (2) the plaintiff’s pleading must specifically note the exact statements alleged to constitute defamation. Continue reading

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Because freedom of speech is one of our most cherished rights in this country, it’s not easy to file claims for defamation.

Our founding fathers saw the value of being able to speak freely and openly to and about each other, especially when it comes to public figures. It is an essential ingredient for a democracy, which is why it’s the very first amendment ever made to our constitution, and one that is constantly invoked by all parties in just about every political discussion.

Because such a high value has been placed on free and open discussion of public figures, those public figures have a higher burden of proof to bear when filing claims of defamation. Not only do they have to prove that the statement(s) in question was false, but that the person/entity who made the statement knew it was false at the time they published it, and that they did so with the intention of inflicting harm (financial or otherwise) on the person in question. Continue reading

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The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does not protect defamation, but the requirements that speech must meet in order to qualify as defamation are very specific, and even more so for public figures. The primary objective of the First Amendment is to allow citizens (and especially the press) to speak freely about public figures in order to keep the public informed on what their elected officials and candidates are doing.

In June of this year, a gunman opened fire at a baseball stadium where Republican Congressmen were practicing for a charity baseball game. In an effort to write an editorial on the event and get it published quickly enough so as to still be relevant, the New York Times made some factual errors, but it quickly corrected them and apologized afterwards.

In trying to make a point about the level of hostility between the two political parties, James Bennet, the author of the editorial, mentioned the 2011 mass shooting conducted by Jared Loughner, which left Representative Gabrielle Giffords severely wounded. Bennet also mentioned a map of targeted electoral districts that Sarah Palin’s political action committee had previously circulated.

Palin promptly sued Bennet and the New York Times in New York federal court for defamation, claiming the editorial incorrectly connected her with the mass shooting, even though the publication she had no connection to the gunman, as the newspaper had previously said so in other articles it had published. Continue reading

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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