National Inquirer Quickly Settles Defamation Suit Brought By Friend of Philip Seymour Hoffman

The law recognizes that public figures are more likely to be the subject of defamatory statements than private citizens. This is especially true when a public figures dies suddenly and unexpectedly. Amid rumors surrounding the recent death of the actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, was a report in the National Enquirer that he and the playwright, David Bar Katz, had been lovers.

Once the report came out, Katz said, “After I dropped the kids at school I looked at my phone, and I’ve gotten a million calls.” He also said that photographers were stalking him on the street. Although Katz said that he was tempted to ignore it, his friends urged him to file a libel lawsuit. Shortly after he did so, the Enquirer withdrew the article with an apology.
The report inaccurately quoted Katz as saying that he and Hoffman were lovers, that they had freebased cocaine the night of Hoffman’s death, and that Katz had seen Hoffman using cocaine many times.

It is well known that Katz and Hoffman were good friends. While they met through friends in the movie industry about fifteen years ago, they didn’t become close until later, when their children began attending the same school in Greenwich Village. They would often have breakfast together after the school drop-off. However, Katz insists that, although he and Hoffman discussed addiction, Hoffman never did drugs in front of him.

Mr. Burstein of the National Enquirer explained that the false report was an honest mistake. He said that his reporters “did a search and found someone named David Katz who appeared to be the son of David’s father. They asked, ‘Are you David Katz who is the playwright?'” He said that he was and they believed him. Burstein further explained that the man “sounded distraught. They couldn’t believe that someone would be so callous to say, ‘I’m the real David Katz'” when he wasn’t. Burstein said that the interview was conducted by a senior reporter who worked on the story with some researchers. The reporter was convinced that it was the right person.

The lawsuit was quickly settled, although Katz did not claim any money for himself. Instead, he formed the American Playwriting Foundation which will give out an annual prize of $45,000 for an unproduced play. It is to be called the Relentless Award. The foundation and the prize are both being paid for by the National Enquirer and its publisher, American Media Incorporated as a part of the settlement of the libel lawsuit. The exact amount of money that the Enquirer paid to settle the lawsuit has not been revealed, although Mr. Burstein did say that “It’s enough for the foundation to give out these grants for years to come.”

As part of the settlement, the Enquirer also provided Katz with contact details for the person who fooled them into thinking that he was David Katz. The real Katz has said that he intends to sue the man, although he hasn’t filed yet. He wants to be sure that he files the lawsuit against the correct person.

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 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 Cicero, Bartlett and Vernon Hills, 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.

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