The Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog

Defamation Suits For Campaign Ads Remain After Nov. 2

The run-up to last week's midterm election saw some of the most negative campaigning in recent memory, generating countless defamation lawsuits against politicians for attack ads. But even after the election, some of the lawsuits remain. 

It appears as if Illinois wrapped up election day without a candidate suing his or her rival, at least for defamation. But a defamation lawsuit brought by Massachusetts state Sen. Harriette L. Chandler against Republican rival William J. Higgins Sr. is still active in the wake of the election, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported.

The plaintiff actually won her election, so you can't just chalk it up to sour grapes.

Harriette Chandler's claim that William Higgins lobbed "false and malicious allegations" against her prior to the election sounds like politics as usual. And as any Illinois injury attorney would tell you, politicians (considered public figures in most cases) usually don't win defamation cases brought against political rivals just because they fudged the facts in a campaign ad.

But as FindLaw explains, Harriette Chandler may have success at trial if she is able to prove that her rival acted with "actual malice." Aren't most  political attack ads, though, malicious by their very nature? They're hardly flattering and not the best source for objective, factual information. 

The state senator claims allegedly false statements on campaign letters, fliers, radio announcements and newspapers ads damaged her reputation; claiming she had to pay dearly to defend herself in similar media outlets.  

Maybe we're all a little cynical after such a bitter election cycle but the courts should be able decide just how much negativity in attack ads is too much.

Contact a Chicago injury lawyer if you have any questions about what constitutes an act of defamation in Illinois.

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