Illinois Firm's Internal Communication Not Protected from Defamation

February 10, 2005 ( - A Chicago lawyer accused of cursing and displaying improper behavior during an unfavorable performance review has won a $300,000 defamation lawsuit against his employer.

>The Illinois 1 st District Appellate Court ruled that Daniel Popko was defamed and upheld a jury’s award of $300,000 over his firing in 1999 after 16 years of service as a trial specialist at CNA Financial Corp, according to The National Law Journal.

>CNA had argued that defamation did not apply because what occurred in a private meeting does not warrant defamation claims, since it was never in print. It claimed it was shielded by a state “nonpublication rule”, which protects intracorporate communications from defamation, according to the Law Journal. The court rejected this argument, asserting that the state actually has no such law.

>Popko was fired after a supervisor accused him of being belligerent and using profanity during a performance review. Popko denied such allegations. His lawyer, Michael Rathsack, said that since the defendants never got Popko’s side of the story, they opened themselves up to the defamation suit.