Peoples’ worst sides often come out on social media and online comments sections because there’s a sense of anonymity and unaccountability – even if that sense is misleading. Often people post whatever comes to mind without worrying about any consequences, but as one North Carolina woman recently found out the hard way, sometimes there are legal and financial consequences to what you allegedly say online.
According to a recent lawsuit filed in Asheville, NC, by Davyne Dial, Jacquelyn Hammond allegedly posted a Facebook comment, referring to Dial, that said, “I didn’t get drunk and kill my kid.”
Dial’s son had, in fact, been killed in an accidental shooting back in 1976, when the boy was eleven years old. Dial was not involved in the accident, but Hammond’s words hit her hard.
In her complaint, Dial alleged this was not the first defamatory comment Hammond had made about her online, but it was allegedly the last straw. Not only was it extremely painful, but it allegedly amounted to Hammond accusing Dial of committing manslaughter, which is a federal offense.
The two women used to work together to obtain control over WPVM, a low-wattage radio station that was having financial troubles. Dial is now general manager of the radio station, but at the time, Hammond was on the board of the organization and sided with another board member who was opposed to selling the station. According to Dial, that was when their relationship took a turn for the worse.
Once the potential consequences of Hammond’s allegedly defamatory online comment sunk in, Dial said she started to think about taking legal action. She had a friend take a screen shot of the comment and send it to her, whereupon Dial then sent it to her attorney, who allegedly told her she had a case against Hammond.
Hammond and her attorney claim the comment was not meant to have anything to do with Dial. That it was meant to go into another forum in which Hammond was participating while also carrying on a discussion with Dial on Facebook. They say the comment was on the forum for less than one minute before Hammond realized her mistake, deleted the post and moved it to the proper forum.
Hammond and her attorney sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, but the motions to dismiss were denied and Dial showed no signs of giving up. The parties eventually settled the dispute outside of court for $500,000: $250,000 for the alleged actual damages Dial incurred and $250,000 in punitive damages.
To receive such a large award as part of a defamation lawsuit has been called “stunning” by legal experts, if only because the likelihood of Hammond being able to pay up is low. Insurance companies don’t cover defamation, but when questioned, Dial would not comment on whether she believes she’ll ever see any of the money promised in the settlement. She merely confirmed the amount and said the matter was confidential.
Regardless of whether she sees any of the money promised her, Dial claims to have accomplished one of her main goals in filing the lawsuit, which was to send a message to Hammond and the rest of the community that there are consequences to the things you say online.
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 Downers Grove and Willowbrook 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 DuPage County defamation and slander lawyers near Wheaton and Schaumburg 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, and Bolingbrook, 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.