Internet business defamation campaigns designed to hurt business reputation are growing exponentially. There is a noticeable increase in false and damaging comments online about businesses on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Reviews. In addition, rival competitors are using platforms such Google, Yelp or Amazon to post false reviews. Fortunately, Syed Law is a Chicago internet defamation attorney with experience bringing and defending libel and slander claims. Syed Law has sent subpoenas to ISPs, drafted numerous complaints, and handled online business defamation cases (also knowns as “defamation of character”). Fortunately, there are ways to remove false comments about your business online, and obtain a damages award.
Business Defamation in Illinois
Defamatory comments (also called “libel” or “slander”), are statements that lower an individual or business’ esteem in the eyes of the community by subjecting that person’s reputation to ridicule, distrust, or contempt. Libel is a false statement made through a written medium such as print, text messages, or online reviews. Slander is a false comment made verbally from one person to another. They are divided into defamation per quod and defamation per se.
Defamation Per Quod in Illinois
To bring a general internet business defamation claim in Illinois, the defamed business can show that another person made
- (1) false statements about his or her business or person;
- (2) communicated the false statements to another person without a privilege to do so; and
- (3) that the defamed person suffered money damages.
Defamation per quod is not common and the defamed must prove special damages. Instead, the small business bringing a defamation per quod claim must actually demonstrate that it suffered special damages. For that reason, very few litigants raise an action for defamation per quod.
Defamation Per Se in Illinois
Some comments are so plainly harmful that the law law will assume injury based upon their malicious character. Libel and slander based upon these comments fall under one of five categories, falsely imputing:
- criminal activity;
- infection of a loathsome disease;
- inability to carry out employment duties with integrity or calling someone unfit for employment;
- a person’s inability in carrying out business and profession duties or which prejudice that person in the same; and
- adultery or fornication.
Because these comments are highly offensive and damaging to reputation, defamation per se is the stronger of the two types of defamation. In fact, a person or business that is the subject of defamation per se does not need to establish special damages. Courts will assume that a small business or person harmed by one of the five types of comments above has suffered special damages.
Defending against a Business Defamation in Illinois
There are, however, exceptions to internet business defamation such as truth, privilege, opinion, and innocent construction that a defendant might raise.
- Truth – is the biggest and most common defense to a libel or slander claim. A defendant sued for libel or slander can argue that their statements are true to defeat the claim.
- Privilege – a privilege is a statement that acts as a shield for the republication of defamatory content to others. A privilege is a defense that organizations raise when they communicate defamatory information internally.
- Opinion – an opinion is a belief based on a view or judgement.
- Innocent Construction – an innocent construction exception is giving words and phrases their “natural and obvious meaning” to defeat a libel or slander action.
Business Defamation in Illinois Statute of Limitations: One Year to File
There are some states that have statute of limitations periods of two to three years. Unfortunately, Illinois is not one of them. Illinois happens to be a state where you need to act quickly before the statute of limitation runs out. In Illinois, you must bring a defamation action within one year. What does this mean in plain English? It means that, with some exceptions, if there is a defamatory comment online, then you must bring suit within one year from the post. After that deadline passes, your case is a strong candidate for an easy and early dismissal by a potential defamer. Fortunately, Syed Law has experience in bringing libel and slander actions on behalf of businesses dealing with online cyberbullying, libel and slander. You should contact us as soon as possible.