Aggressive Defense of Defamation, Libel, and Slander

defamationThe First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees free speech. However, though those protections are broad and very important, they are not unlimited. There is no legal remedy for hurt feelings or someone being generally “unkind” to you. However, when words, written or verbal, cause harm to your professional reputation or fall into certain narrow categories of actionable speech, you may have legal remedies.

The Russell Firm has experience representing parties in defamation and libel cases. If you believe you have been defamed, or you are being accused of defamation based on something you said or wrote on the internet or elsewhere, call Attorney Erin Russell at 312-994-2424 for a free consultation. Erin has litigated defamation cases and won, and can advise you regarding whether the communications you are concerned about are legally actionable, and if so, what type of compensation might be available.

What is Defamation?

Defamation occurs when false and harmful statements are made about a person or a business. There are different legal standards that must be met depending upon whether the statements were made about a person or a business. The statements can be written or oral, but they must be heard or read by a third party. This is often referred to as “publication.” In most cases, a person must prove actual damages such as having lost money or a specific, provable professional loss, in order to win a defamation case and get an award of damages. There are some narrow exceptions to this rule.

The Russell Firm knows how to deal with defamation. Both defending those accused of it and protecting people who are defamed. Erin Russell has 13 years of litigation experience to bring to bear to ensure that you have excellent legal advice to protect yourself, whether you’re being accused of defamation or someone is defaming you. The last clients Attorney Russell defended in a defamation case not only won, but got an award of more than $500,000 against the people who sued them.

What is the legal standard for a defamation case?

Defamation requires several things. Not everything that is mean or hurtful or even very insulting is defamation. Defamation is: a) a false statement of fact; b) regarding the plaintiff (including the plaintiff’s professional reputation or sexual reputation); c) which is published to a third party (that means written or spoken); and d) which results in injury to the plaintiff. Even within this framework, not every statement is necessarily defamation. There are different burdens of proof depending upon what the statements are about, whether the person they are about is a private party or a public figure. Attorney Erin Russell can talk with you about the specifics of your situation, explain to you how they fit into the framework of a defamation case, and help you to determine whether you have a case against someone, or whether someone’s case against you has any merit.

In Illinois, for example, there is defamation per se and defamation per quod. The difference is pretty easy on paper, but a little tricky in practice. This is why you need a consultation with Attorney Russell so she can go over the details of your particular situation with you. Essentially, defamation per se refers to false statements that are deemed by law to be so harmful the court won’t even require you to prove actual harm or damage. These include false statements regarding a person’s professional abilities, whether a person committed a serious crime, that a person has a loathsome disease or whether a person is unchaste. The standard for these statements is different for public figures than it is for private individuals, and the burdens of proof vary.

Under Illinois law, defamation per quod pertains to other false statements that cause an actual, usually economic harm. The court will require that you provide admissible evidence that the false statement directly caused the financial harm. This can be very difficult to prove, but it certainly can be done.

If you can satisfy the requirements for either defamation per se or per quod, you may be able to recover damages in court with the help of The Russell Firm and Attorney Erin Russell.

Defamation on the Internet

Defamation can occur in many settings, including on the internet. Many people experience unpleasant interactions on the internet. Whether those interactions rise to the level of defamation is a question you can talk about with Attorney Erin Russell. Defamation online can be complicated by the fact that many people are online anonymously. Uncovering the identity of someone making defamatory comments requires legal skill. The Russell Firm can help. Attorney Erin Russell has years of experience dealing with anonymity online; both preserving it and under the right circumstances asking that it be pierced.

Defamation at Work

Comments made in the workplace, whether by a co-worker or a supervisor, are subject to the same legal standards listed above. Depending on the type of workplace, there can be additional privacy concerns. False rumors, gossip, unauthorized disclosures by supervisors or human resources personnel can impugn your professional relationship and harm your career prospects and ability to earn. If you believe you have been defamed at work, The Russell Firm can help. Attorney Erin Russell can assist you in taking the right steps to protect your job and your professional reputation.

What are the Legal Remedies for Defamation?

Courts have wide latitude to award damages once defamation can be proved. You may be entitled to compensatory relief in the form of money if the defamation occurred in the past. If the defamatory statements are publicly published and continuing, you can get both compensatory damages and injunctive relief. Injunctive relief allows the court to force the person making the defamatory statements to stop, or if they are published online to take them down.

Defamation Defense (Anti-SLAPP): What if what I said or wrote wasn’t wrong and isn’t defamation?

The Russell Firm has experience defending people accused of defamation. In some cases not only can you successfully show you did not defame someone, but you can also mount a counterattack and be awarded damages yourself. This can be accomplished when the person who is suing you for defamation is trying to silence you in violation of Anti-SLAPP laws.

Anti-SLAPP laws protect speech made as part of public participation. In Illinois, the Anti-SLAPP Act (755 ILCS 110/15) (also known as the “Citizen Participation Act”). To challenge a lawsuit as a “SLAPP,” you must show that you are being sued for acts in furtherance of your rights of “petition, speech, association, or to otherwise participate in government.” These activities are protected and they are immune from liability, regardless of intent, except when they are not truly aimed at procuring a favorable government action, result or outcome. The Illinois Supreme Court has construed the Citizen Participation Act fairly narrowly, so it is not a guarantee of immunity.

In 2012, the Illinois Supreme Court held that if a defendant’s conduct is “not genuinely aimed at procuring favorable government action, result or outcome” the CRA will not apply. The court will examine carefully your conduct to determine what it believes your true intentions were. The court will also examine the plaintiff’s intent in bringing the lawsuit against you. If the intent is to truly recover for defamation and not to “stifle or chill defendant’s rights of petition, speech, association or participation in government, the CPA will not apply. Essentially, you may prevail in defending yourself with an Anti-SLAPP defense if the person who is suing you is only doing so to silence you in certain circumstances.

If you are sued for defamation and win an Anti-SLAPP motion, you may be entitled to recover financially from the person who tried to silence you. Which Anti-SLAPP law will apply depends on where in the country, or the world, the parties live and from where the communications were made. Attorney Erin Russell has many years of litigation experience and can advise you regarding which law will apply to you and what your chances are of succeeding with an Anti-SLAPP motion in your defense.

Contact The Russell Firm’s Skilled Lawyer Today About Your Defamation Matter

Most legal matters have time limits called statutes of limitation. You don’t have an unlimited time to think about your defamation claim before taking legal action. If you’ve been defamed, The Russell Firm and Attorney Erin Russell can help you make your case. Call Erin for a free consultation to discuss how she can help you stop defamatory actions and convince a court to give you the appropriate remedy. All consultations are confidential, and we can establish quickly whether you have a case and if so, what resources will be needed to take the case to conclusion.

If you have been accused of defamation, legal advice is absolutely necessary. It is best for an attorney to respond on your behalf. If you have been served a summons and complaint, contact or call Attorney Erin Russell at (312) 994-2424 for advice first. The Russell Firm is ready to assist you and to defend you and your reputation from accusations of defamation.