Innocent Construction Defense

In Illinois, the innocent construction defense can be raised to defeat libel per se claims. A court determines as a matter of law if a statement which is supposedly libelous per se can be construed innocently.

A statement cannot be libelous per se if it has an innocent construction. If the statement can be construed innocently the Court should dismiss the suit. Courts are not required to interpret a statement innocently by straining to give it an innocent interpretation but if a statement can reasonably be interpreted as libelous and innocently then the innocent interpretation wins.

The Court is not permitted to look at evidence beyond the allegedly defamatory publication in determining whether it is reasonably capable of an innocent construction. Our Supreme Court in Illinois has also instructed that no balancing should be done between reasonable interpretation as long as the innocent one is reasonable.

There is thus only a single issue for a trial court to decide – can the publication at issue standing on its own reasonably be construed in an innocent and non-defamatory manner. If that is the case, then the libel per se claim must be dismissed.

The Chicago Defamation Slander and Libel Lawyers attorneys at Lubin Austermuehle have litigated defamation cases for decades. We defended and prosecuted a wide variety of libel cases including defending a large contributor to the Loyola University basketball program for allegedly defaming the coach and causing him to be terminated, a dissatisfied consumer who systematically attacked a dishonest used car dealer with negative reviews and a top executive for criticizing his Fortune 100 employer in a press release following his wrongful termination. You can read here a federal court ruling where we obtained dismissal of a libel per se claim with the innocent infringer defense. Here is an arbitration ruling where our lawyers following an evidentiary hearing proved that our client's scores of videos posted on YouTube were protected speech and opinions which the First Amendment protected because at worst our client had made a few minor factual errors and was entitled to express a negative opinion of a used car dealer who had been repeatedly found guilty of consumer fraud in other lawsuits. These cases obtained a lot of press coverage. You can look at those news stories on our press page here and here.

We also represent plaintiffs in libel cases. We forced a defendant who had attacked our client one of the largest diamond wholesalers in the world to provide a written apology and retraction as part of a settlement of a $16 million libel per se suit we brought in federal court in Chicago. You can learn more about that lawsuit here.

Our Chicago Defamation Slander and Libel Attorneys are committed to fighting for our clients in the courtroom or when we negotiate a settlement. Located in Chicago, Wilmette and Elmhurst, Illinois, we have successfully litigated internet defamation, and cyber smear cases for clients all over the Chicago area. To set up a consultation with one of our lawyers, you can contact us online or call us on our toll-free number at 630-333-0333.

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