The U.S. Constitution gives every citizen the right to privacy, but it also grants the right to freedom of speech and courts frequently have to walk a fine line between the two. The law gets especially difficult to navigate when public figures sue journalists for defamation.
The writers of the Constitution recognized the value in not restricting the right of journalists to investigate and report on whatever they found newsworthy. Because of this, the law requires public figures to bear a higher burden of proof than private citizens when filing for defamation, including evidence that the publisher new the statements were false and made them with the intention of harming the public figure’s career.
The idea behind the law is that it is in the best interests of the public to have access to information on public figures. This is especially true of a democracy in which the public should have the right to know what the people they’re voting for are really up to, but the term “public figure” now includes all sorts of entertainers and athletes, in addition to politicians.
At the same time, the news has become increasingly sensational. With multiple 24-hour news channels, not to mention various online news sites, the term “news” has grown from the facts we need to know to speculation about things that interest us and hold our attention.
While sex tapes involving celebrities may certainly be attention grabbing, it’s hard some argue to make the case that they’re truly newsworthy. Terry G. Bollea, better known as the WWF wrestler, Hulk Hogan, was recently awarded $115 million by a jury for the release of a sex tape involving himself and the wife of his best friend at the time.
Clips of the tape, as well as a full description of everything that happens on it, were released on the news site, Gawker. Although Bollea himself has discussed many details of his sex life in public, he was outraged at the release of a tape, which he says was made without his knowledge or consent.
According to the lawsuit, the tape was kept in the office of Todd Clem, the husband of the woman in the tape and Bollea’s former friend. Clem, a radio shock jock who had his name legally changed to Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, claims the tape was stolen from his office. No one seems to know how it got into Gawker’s hands. The site says it was submitted by an anonymous source.
With an award of $55 million in compensatory damages and $60 million for emotional distress, the total of $115 million is even more than the $100 million Bollea was asking for. It’s a significant victory for the personal privacy of celebrities all over the country, but Gawker says it isn’t over yet. Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker, released a statement in which he said the jury did not get to hear all the facts of the case, that they are preparing to appeal the decision, and that he is confident they will win the case in the end.
Our Chicago 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 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 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 Lombard and Des Plaines, 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 Romeoville and Oak Lawn 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 Schaumburg, and Palatine, 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.