Defamation occurs when a statement harms a person’s reputation to the extent they are lowered in the eyes of the community or deters the community from associating with them. However, not all negative statements are defamation. In Illinois, to prove a claim for defamation, a plaintiff must have evidence that shows:
- The defendant made a false statement about the plaintiff;
- The defendant made an unprivileged publication of that statement to a third party; and
- The publication caused damages.
Types of Defamation
Defamation per se
Harm is apparent and obvious on its face.
Examples: (1) Accusing the plaintiff of the committing a crime; (2) claiming that the plaintiff is infected with a horrible communicable disease or illness; (3) words that impute an inability to perform or want of integrity in the discharge of the duties of one’s office or employment; (4) words that prejudice a party, or impute a lack of ability, in his or her trade, profession, or business; and (5) words stating false accusations of fornication or adultery.
Defamation per quod
If a defamatory statement doesn’t fit in the categories listed above, a Plaintiff may have a claim for defamation per quod. This type of claim may be brought in two circumstances.
First, a claim of defamation per quod is appropriate when you cannot tell a statement is defamatory and outside evidence is introduced to show why the statement is defamatory. For example, if the statement is: “You don’t want to do business with ABC business. I hear their owner takes pictures of kids.” On its face, there is nothing defamatory about the statement, but it can be inferred that the statement “takes pictures of kids” implies the owner might be a sex offender or inappropriate with children. That may be defamation per quod.
Second, a claim of defamation per quod can be made when the statement is defamatory on its face, but does not fall within one of the limited categories of statements that are considered defamation per se.
If you believe you have been defamed, it is important to contact an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible as defamation cases in Illinois typically need to be filed within one year.
Authored By: Karen Munoz, Partner