Illinois Defamation Law Explained | Suing For Defamation In Illinois

Illinois Defamation Law Explained | Suing For Defamation In Illinois

Article written by Illinois & Iowa Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
November 1, 2019

In this article, we will explain defamation law in Illinois.  In order to state a cause of action for defamation in Illinois, the plaintiff must allege the following elements:

  1. ‍The defendant made a false statement about the plaintiff; 
  2. ‍Made with actual malice or negligence;
  3. ‍That was published to a third party; 
  4. ‍That damaged the plaintiff.

‍There are two types of defamation in Illinois, defamation per se and defamation per quod.  Defamation per se consists of certain types of statements that the law considers to be automatically damaging and for which damages need not be proven.  A statement that does not qualify as defamation per se is classified as defamation per quod.  In defamation per quod cases, the plaintiff must prove actual monetary damages.  

The following types of statements qualify as defamation per se

  • statements accusing the plaintiff of a crime; 
  • statements asserting that the plaintiff has a "loathsome" communicable disease; 
  • statements asserting that the plaintiff is unable to perform in his or her employment or lacks integrity in his or her employment; 
  • statements that harm the plaintiff in his or her profession; and
  • ‍statements accusing the plaintiff of adultery or fornication. 

‍The statute of limitations for defamation actions is 1 year.  

‍In Illinois there is no distinction between libel (written defamation) and slander (oral defamation).  

Many types of statements are privileged, meaning that the speaker will not be held accountable for defamation even if the elements of defamation would otherwise have been met.  Privilege usually depends on the context in which the statement is made, such as statements made in a court of law.  ​

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