Your Rights

Accusations of Defamation

Defamation of character is the false or unjustified injury of the good reputation of another. Slander and libel are examples of defamation.

Should allegations of defamation be brought against a person, a number of defenses may be used by an attorney:

  • The truth: This is considered an "absolute defense" to a defamation action, but it can be difficult to prove.
  • "Privilege": This refers to the statements made by witnesses in court, arguments made by lawyers or by judges on the bench, comments made by city council members at city council meetings, remarks made on the floors of the House or Senate, and even public records. The statements are considered "privileged" because they will not support a cause of action for defamation no matter how false or outrageous.
    Opinion: Most jurisdictions also recognize as a defense. If a person's comments were an opinion as opposed to fact, the comment cannot be misconstrued as fact and therefore does not support a cause for defamation.
  • Other defenses are "fair comment," "innocent construction," and "consent." A defendant may also want to make the point that the plaintiff already had a poor reputation in the community. Illinois is the only state that recognizes "innocent construction" as a defense, when words can be construed in two ways.

There is also a statute of limitations with regards to a defense. In Illinois, as in most states, there is a one-year period in which a libel or slander suit must be brought.

Note: This information was prepared as a public service by the Illinois State Bar Association. Every effort has been made to provide accurate information at the time of publication. For the most current information, please consult your lawyer. If you need a lawyer and do not have one, visit our lawyer referral page

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