Dismissal of Scottie Pippen Libel and Slander Suit Affirmed by 7th Circuit

Many employers will not hire an employee if it is known that the employee has filed for bankruptcy or is suffering from debt. This can then harm the employee’s ability to make money in order to escape her debt.

This allegedly happened with the famous basketball player, Scottie Pippin. Since his retirement from playing basketball in 2004, Pippin has lost a large portion of his fortune through bad investments. As a result, he has filed multiple lawsuits against some of his former financial and legal advisors, whom he feels misled him. When the media heard of Pippin’s financial problems, several news organizations reported that the basketball star had filed for bankruptcy, which is not true.

Pippin then filed a lawsuit against some of these news organizations for defamation, alleging that the reports have had a negative impact on his ability to acquire product endorsements and personal appearances.

The Northern District of Illinois, in which the suit was initially filed, dismissed the case, stating that the complaint contained falsehoods which did not fit into any category of statements which are recognized by Illinois law as being so innately harmful that damages can be assumed.

Because Scottie Pippin is a public figure, he bears a heavier burden of proof in order to file a claim for defamation than a private citizen would. This is because public figures have greater access to the media through which they can refute defamatory statements. Private citizens are less likely to have the same level of access, thereby rendering defamation innately more harmful to a private citizen than to a public figure.

The court also found insufficient evidence that the statements had been published with actual malice, rather than ignorance. Because Pippin is a public figure, he needed to prove that the false statements were a product of actual malice in order to file claims. In order to qualify for actual malice, the defendant must have known that the statement was false and published it anyway. When a media outlet fails to confirm that a statement is false, a plaintiff might be able to sue them for negligence, but not actual malice. Although Pippin alerted the defendants to the falsity of their statements after publication, it was not enough to prove that actual malice existed at the time that the statement was published.

Additionally, cases of defamation in the state of Illinois are subject to the Single Publication Act, which provides that a claim for defamation is complete after the first publication. The Act was put in place to protect speakers and writers from facing multiple lawsuits regarding a single statement which was mass-produced.

Pippin argued that the Single Publication Act does not apply to material posted on the Internet. This, according to Pippin, is because those who publish on the Internet, as the defendants in this lawsuit did, can more easily post and delete material. Therefore, Pippin argued that every day that the defamatory material remains on the website after the publisher knows that it is false constitutes a republication of the material.

The Single Publication Act does not deal directly with statements published online, so the court was forced to infer from decisions made in similar cases in other courts. Based on these past decisions, the court ruled that the Single Publication Act does apply to material published on the Internet. As a result, the news organizations can only be held responsible for the first publication of the defamatory statement.

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 Des Plaines and Park Ridge, 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 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 law suits 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 Wheaton and Lisle 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 Elgin and Naperville, 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.

Contact Information