1109, 1116 (N.D.Ill. 1998). According to defendant, plaintiff knew of
defendant's allegedly defamatory comments over a year before it filed the
Plaintiff responds that the statute of limitations did not begin to run
until September 8, 1998, the date it first obtained an unredacted copy of
the Coactive letter. Plaintiff argues that until this date it could not
have properly pled its defamation claim in accordance with the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure's haec verba pleading requirement, which
requires a plaintiff raising a defamation claim to set forth in her
complaint the alleged defamatory words published or spoken by the
defendant. Chisholm v. Foothill Capital Corp., 940 F. Supp. 1273, 1284
(N.D.Ill. 1996).*fn3 The rationale of the haec verba requirement is that
"general knowledge of the exact language used is necessary to form a
responsive pleading." Id. Courts in this district, however, have held
that the defamatory language need not be quoted verbatim. Id.;
Vantassell-Matin, 741 F. Supp. 698, 707-08 (N.D.Ill. 1990); Pelech v.
Klaff-Joss, LP, 828 F. Supp. 525, 534 (N.D.Ill. 1993).
In the instant case, plaintiff has admitted that the comments contained
in the May 1, 1997, Coactive letter and alleged to be libelous in the
complaint are the same comments that Teng & Associates expressly set
forth and attributed to defendant in the May 16, 1997, Teng report, which
plaintiff received on January 15, 1998, and read by March 12, 1998, at the
latest. Although at that point in time, plaintiff had notice that
defendant had made negative comments to Teng & Associates about
plaintiffs work performance at the Dirksen Building, the Teng report makes
no reference to the Coactive letter. Accordingly, the court finds that
plaintiff was not then put on a duty of inquiry to discover the Coactive
letter or the allegedly defamatory statements contained there in.
Even if plaintiff had been put on notice of inquiry on March 12, 1998,
plaintiff made a sufficient inquiry by sending an FOIA request to GSA
seeking to obtain reports and correspondence from defendant to GSA. GSA
responded by forwarding to plaintiff a redacted version of the Coactive
letter, stating that it redacted "commercial or financial records" from
the letter to avoid competitive injury to defendant's business. Thus, GSA
led plaintiff to believe that the redacted portion of the Coactive letter
contained commercial or financial information sensitive to defendant,
rather than the statements plaintiff has identified as defamatory. By
taking GSA at its word, plaintiff had no reason to pursue inquiry into
the correspondence that it later discovered contained, not commercial or
financial information, but the critical comments on which plaintiff
brings this action.
For these reasons, plaintiff cannot be charged with a lack of diligence
in pursuing its cause of action against defendant. To hold that the
statute of limitations began to run when plaintiff learned in early 1998
that defendant had made critical comments would allow GSA's contractor
(defendant) to benefit from a deception apparently conducted to throw
plaintiff off the track. Under these circumstances, this court concludes
that the running of the statute of limitations would be equitably
tolled. See Moore v. Ford Motor Co., 901 F. Supp. 1293, 1298 (N.D.Ill.
1995) (citing Cada v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 920 F.2d 446, 450-451 (7th
Defendant's motion for partial summary judgment is denied. This being
said, the court has serious doubt that the language
contained in the Coactive letter is defamatory. Plaintiff is directed to
file a memorandum addressing this concern on or before August 21, 2000.
Defendant shall respond thereto by September 11, 2000. Plaintiff may
reply thereto by September 25, 2000. This matter is set for a report and
status on November 7, 2000, at 9:00 a.m.