Check Your Homeowner’s Insurance for Libel Coverage if You Are Sued for a Negative Internet Review or Comment

Although laws do exist to protect companies and individuals from harmful false statements, judges enforcing these laws must be careful not to violate the defendant’s right to free speech.

If a plaintiff believes that a defendant’s actions are causing harm, and must be stopped immediately, there are certain forms of emergency litigation which can be used to do this. When filing a complaint against a defendant, the plaintiff can also request that the court grant a preliminary injunction against the defendant’s harmful actions. This protects the plaintiff from any further harm the defendant might do in the months or even years that it can take for the court to reach a decision in the lawsuit. If the plaintiff is successful in proving that the defendant’s actions were harmful and illegal, the preliminary injunction may then become permanent. If, on the other hand, the defendant is successful in defending their case, then the preliminary injunction may be removed.

However, one situation in which courts are unlikely to grant a preliminary injunction is that of defamation. In Organization for a Better Austin v. Keefe, the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for a court to issue a preliminary injunction to enjoin libelous statements.
This ruling is intended to protect individual consumers against large corporations that have a team of lawyers on their side. The corporation can act quickly to get a local judge to issue a preliminary injunction against the consumer before the defendant even has a chance to acquire her own counsel. Once that happens, the lawsuit is already going in favor of the plaintiff, even though it has just begun. The defendant is censored for the duration of the lawsuit, and any settlement negotiations which might take place do so in the context of the judge having issued a preliminary injunction against the defendant based on the likely outcome of the trial.
While the Supreme Court’s ruling applies to preliminary injunctions all over the country some states have laws which forbid even a permanent injunction to be issued against defamatory statements. In Missouri, for example, the local law points out that the state constitution makes such an injunction an impermissible prior restraint, although certain exceptions to this do exist.
In addition to state and federal laws protecting freedom of speech, some homeowner’s and renter’s policies include coverage which protects the homeowner or renter from accusations of libel. This turned out to be the case when Cooney posted a video on his YouTube page which made some statements about Jim Butler Chevrolet. Butler took these statements to be libelous and had his large law firm file a defamation lawsuit and petition a judge to issue a temporary restraining order against Cooney and his video. The judge complied before Cooney even had a chance to acquire his own attorney.

When he did manage to find legal representation, the lawyer advised Cooney to check his homeowner’s policy. Sure enough, it included libel coverage. They were able to get the judge to dissolve the temporary restraining order and to deny a preliminary injunction. Cooney was then able to restore his video to his YouTube page while the lawsuit progressed.

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 Wheeling, 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 Naperville and Hinsdale 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 Lockport and Yorkville, 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 630-333-0333 or online by filling out our contact us form.

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