Despite the schoolyard saying, words can hurt you. Negative information that gets spread through the public can affect both your personal and professional lives, which is why legislators have taken steps to protect citizens from language that has the potential to be harmful.
But the U.S. Constitution promises all its citizens the right to free speech. This is because the founders of our country wanted the people to feel safe to criticize public figures, including politicians. The idea is that, if people feel free to criticize public figures, it allows public discussion of those figures. The law asserts the people’s right to free and open discussion of the people they are voting to govern them because uninhibited discussion allows the people to make the most informed decisions when they go to the voting polls.
On the other hand, private citizens and public figures alike can suffer significant harm from a few choice words. To protect citizens from the negative effects of false statements, laws have been put in place to protect people from false, defamatory statements.
But the law has to walk a fine line between defamation and free speech. Because the law assumes free discussion of public figures is in the best interests of the people, public figures, such as politicians and celebrities, have a higher burden of proof when filing a claim for defamation.
One recent example of this is the rape allegations against Jameis Winston, an NFL quarterback currently playing for the Buccaneers. While Winston was playing football at Florida State, he was investigated for allegations of rape brought by Erica Kinsman. Winston was never charged, but rumors have circulated both online and off that the investigation was swayed by the University not wanting to lose its star football player. Enough money gets invested and made in college football to constitute a significant conflict of interest for institutions of higher learning.
On Sunday, November 22, CNN aired a documentary called The Hunting Ground, which was about the rape allegations against Winston. The documentary premiered at Sundance Film Festival and received positive reviews, as well as critics who question the film’s ethics.
A few days before the film aired on CNN, the network received a notice from John Boudet, Winston’s attorney, warning the company that it could face a defamation lawsuit if it decided to go through with airing the film.
Boudet’s notice alleges the documentary is one sided and deliberately omits evidence that favors Winston, including witness testimonies and medical exams. It also said that CNN mistakenly believed Winston’s status as a public figure would protect the company from a defamation lawsuit.
Whether or not Winston’s status as a public figure is actually enough to save the network from a lawsuit has yet to be seen, but CNN didn’t seem too concerned with the threat of legal action. It aired the documentary on schedule and the controversy around the film continues. The documentary alleges universities will do almost anything to protect their star athletes, even to the point of putting other students in danger.
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 Naperville, Burr Ridge, and Hinsdale, 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 Joliet and Bolingbrook defamation and slander lawyers 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, Lombard and Roselle, we serve clients throughout Illinois and the Midwest and in DuPage, Cook, Kane and Lake Counties.
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.