Chicago, Client Results, Employment Law, Firm News, School & University Liability

Summary Judgment Ruling Ends Defamation, IIED Lawsuit Against School

July 19, 2023

Johnson & Bell Shareholders, David A. Warnick and Kevin G. Owens, recently obtained summary judgment in favor of their school client in a dispute involving claims of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. In this case, the plaintiff, a teacher at the school, alleged that the school inappropriately communicated to students, parents and school staff that the plaintiff had been terminated. Plaintiff argued that the school’s communication implied an inappropriate physical relationship existed with a former student and that plaintiff had engaged in criminal conduct when he had not.

The plaintiff’s dismissal was prompted by a complaint of a former student. The former student demonstrated that the teacher engaged in inappropriate written and electronic communications with her within a year of her graduation – a violation of the school’s employment handbook. Upon receipt of the complaint, the school undertook an investigation, culminating in the teacher’s dismissal.

Warnick and Owens demonstrated that the school’s communication to school constituents was appropriate and factual, and in no way defamatory. Likewise, the claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) was also unsupported. Its only basis was in plaintiff’s claims of defamation, which plaintiff abandoned in the face of the school’s Motion for Summary Judgment. After evaluating the evidence, the judge granted summary judgment in favor of the school and against plaintiff, a complete victory for our client.

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