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Law School Case Brief

Kolegas v. Heftel Broad. Corp. - 154 Ill. 2d 1, 180 Ill. Dec. 307, 607 N.E.2d 201 (1992)

Rule:

A statement is considered defamatory if it tends to cause such harm to the reputation of another that it lowers that person in the eyes of the community or deters third persons from associating with him. Statements may be considered defamatory per se or per quod. Statements are considered defamatory per se when the defamatory character of the statement is apparent on its face; that is, when the words used are so obviously and materially harmful to the plaintiff that injury to his reputation may be presumed. Statements are considered defamatory per quod if the defamatory character of the statement is not apparent on its face, and extrinsic facts are required to explain its defamatory meaning.

Facts:

Anthony Kolegas, who was engaged in the business of promoting and producing classic cartoon festivals, was preparing for a cartoon festival with the intention to promote public awareness of Elephant Man Disease. Kolegas hired Evergreen Media Corporation of Chicago AM to advertise the festival on WLUP-AM; the advertisement was aired during the broadcast of a radio program featuring Tim and Beth Disa. Shortly after the advertisement aired, Kolegas telephoned WLUP-AM wherein a conversation between Kolegas and Disa ensued. Shortly after disconnecting Kolegas, Disa stated on air that Kolegas was “not for real.” Thereafter, Kolegas brought an action against defendants, seeking damages for defamation, publication of an injurious falsehood, invasion of privacy, and reckless infliction of emotional distress. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Following a hearing, the trial court granted the defendants' motion and dismissed all counts of the complaint. The plaintiffs appealed. The appellate court reversed that portion of the trial court's order, which dismissed the defamation count, but affirmed the dismissal of all other counts.

Issue:

Should the charge of defamation against defendants survive?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court held that defendants' statements could be found to be defamatory per se and that there was no reasonable innocent construction for the statements, which would remove the statements from the defamatory per se category. According to the Court, the statements imputed that Kolegas lacked integrity in carrying out his professional duties and prejudiced him in his business.

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