Illinois Defamation Legal Overview
Defining Defamation in Illinois
Illinois defines defamation as any falsehood spoken or written that is meant to incite hate or contempt toward another party — the plaintiff.
In Illinois defamation cases, the plaintiff must prove that the statement was made to a third party and that the defendant caused damage to the plaintiff’s reputation. Also, to win, the plaintiff must, at the very least, prove that the defendant was negligent or acted with actual malice.
The statute of limitations for defamation in Illinois is one year from the date of publication or broadcast. Illinois recognizes the Single Publication Rule for Statute of Limitations purposes.
Public vs. Private Figures in Illinois
Illinois recognizes public figures as persons who, by their notoriety and fame, are well known. Public figures include:
- government officials,
- political candidates, and
- people who make their living outside of government work but are in the public eye.
Public figures must prove that the defendant acted with actual malice. Private figures only need to prove the defendant was negligent when making an alleged defamatory statement to an unauthorized third party.
Illinois is unique with respect to how they define negligence; it is a slightly more lenient standard than actual malice. In other words, it is difficult to prove defamation negligence in Illinois.
Defenses for Defamation in Illinois
Truth, opinion, privilege and fair reporting are viable defenses used in Illinois defamation cases.
Illinois also recognizes the defendant’s ability to defend themselves under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Under the provisions of this act, websites and webmasters are not held responsible for defamatory third-party content.
Illinois is a Per Se State
Defamation per se constitutes any statement that is inherently slanderous or libelous. Defamation Per Se statements, according to Illinois, attack the plaintiff’s integrity. Examples include:
- Engaging in criminal activity;
- Being a danger to people;
- Calling into question the plaintiff’s ethics; or
- Engaging in sexually immorality.
In defamation per se cases, the plaintiff can sue the defendant without having to prove damages to his or her reputation or economic well-being.
Illinois Defamation Damages
Allowable defamation damages in Illinois include:
- Actual Damages
- Compensatory Damages
- Punitive Damages