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Defamation: What You Need To Know


What is defamation?


Defamation is an umbrella category for false or defamatory statements made against another. Defamation can be either oral or in writing. A statement is defamatory if it is false and impeachs a person's reputation, lowers their estimation in the eyes of the community or discourages other people from associating with that person. Kolegas v. Heftel Broadcasting Corp., 154 Ill.2d 1, 607 N.E.2d 201, 180 Ill.Dec. 307 (1992).


What is slander and libel?


Slander and libel are two types of defamation. Slander is an oral defamatory statement. Libel is a printed defamatory statement.


How does defamation work?


If false and harmful words are said or printed about you which result in you suffering damages, you may have the right to sue and obtain compensation for the harm suffered because of those false statements.


What types of words or statements are considered defamatory?


In Illinois, words which (1) impute the commission of a crime, (2) impute infection with a loathsome communicable disease, (3) impute an inability to perform or want of integrity in the discharge of duties of one’s office or employment, (4) prejudice a party or impute a lack of ability in his or her trade, profession, or business, or (5) state false accusations of fornication or adultery are all considered per se defamatory. Bryson v. News American Publications, Inc., 174 Ill. 2d 77 (1996); Tuite v.


Corbitt, 224 Ill. 2d 490 (2006). Other false and harmful words or statements could also be considered defamatory but may not automatically be defamatory.


Is defamation a crime?


In Illinois, as in most states, defamation is not a crime. It is instead considered a tort. A tort is a civil wrong for which the harmed party can pursue a civil claim against the offending party.


Who can sue for defamation?


An individual, a group, or a business can sue for defamation so long as they meet all the necessary elements of the tort. To pursue a defamation claim, you have to prove:

  1. That the defendant made a false statement about you,

  2. There was an unprivileged publication of the defamatory statement to a third party, and

  3. You were harmed by the false and defamatory statement.


How much time do I have to sue for defamation?


In Illinois, the statute of limitations for defamation is one year after the publication of the defamatory statement. In other words, you must file your lawsuit within one year after the false statement was made.


Can defamation be true?


No. For a statement to be defamatory and thus constitute the tort of defamation, it must be false. If a statement is true, it does not constitute defamation, at least in the legal sense.


Are defamation cases hard to win?


Defamation cases can be difficult to win, especially if you are a public figure. Generally, it is much easier for a private individual to win a defamation claim than a public figure. However, even private individuals sometimes have difficulty winning a defamation claim because of the many defenses which may be raised in defamation claims.

What damages can be awarded for defamation?


Both economic and non-economic damages could be awarded for defamation. You could, for example, collect the value of any lost earnings, including future earnings, if you were fired because of a defamatory statement. You may also be able to collect lost business or economic opportunities. You may also be able to collect damages for pain and suffering and impairment to your reputation or standing in a community. In addition, punitive damages may also be available, but only if you can prove that the party making the defamatory statement did so with actual malice.


Need help with a defamation claim?


If you or your Illinois business have been the victim of defamation and you need legal guidance or representation, please contact the experienced, dedicated, and successful Bloomington, Illinois defamation attorneys and business lawyers at Imeri Rogers, LLP for a consultation.


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