Before a statement is Judged defamatory as a matter of law, it must first be decided whether the words are susceptible to an innocent construction. (Chapski v. Copley Press (1982), 92 Ill. 2d 344, 352.) In Chapski, our supreme court stated:
APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, SECOND DISTRICT
534 N.E.2d 549, 179 Ill. App. 3d 592, 128 Ill. Dec. 367 1989.IL.120
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon. John E. Sype, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE INGLIS delivered the opinion of the court. UNVERZAGT, P.J., and DUNN, J. concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE INGLIS
Plaintiff, Robert Lowe, appeals from the dismissal of his complaint which alleged that he was defamed by defendants, Rockford Newspaper, Inc., and Betsy Burkhard. On appeal, plaintiff contends that the trial court erroneously dismissed his complaint because (1) defendants' allegedly defamatory statements were not capable of being innocently construed and (2) defendants' conduct was not privileged under the doctrine of fair report of public proceedings. We reverse.
On October 29, 1986, Rockford Newspaper published the following article written by Betsy Burkhard:
"Would-be repo man draws blank
A Rockford couple's car was nearly stolen at knifepoint by someone who said he was a local repo man.
Willie St. Junior, 39, and his wife, Joyce, 30, told Rockford police that they were walking to their car in a parking lot at 3485 Brick Drive shortly before 4 p.m. Tuesday when they saw two people who appeared to be trying to steal the car.
When the St. Juniors approached, they told police a man threatened them with a razor. Then, a woman who was with him got into the car.
The man told St. Junior that he was the repossession man for a local auto sales company.
He said he was either going to repossess the car or slash the tires so the car would ...