What is the Statute of Limitations in Internet Defamation Cases?

Relying primarily on a recent California Supreme Court decision, I wrote a while back that the discovery rule does not apply to defamation cases. That is, generally, you have one year to file a lawsuit for defamation (slander/libel) from the time the statement or statements are published. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court did not address specifically whether the discovery rule applies to internet libel. 

Well leave it to the Fourth District, Court of Appeal to decide the issue. It determined that Internet websites are subject to the single publication rule. In plain English, (and grossly simplified) it means that you can only sue for damages based on the first publication of a defamatory statement. You can’t, for example, sue multiple times based on a single defamatory statement. This is important because the statute of limitations is triggered at the first publication of a defamatory statement. So the Fourth District effectively held that in regard to alleged defamatory statements made on Internet websites (like blogs or Twitter), the statute of limitations begins to run at the time the statement is first published.

Many lawyers are not aware of this rule. They believe that the discovery rule applies to Internet libel or that the single publication rule does not. But they are wrong on both counts. This is why it is necessary for you to consult with a defamation lawyer, or at least someone who is somewhat knowledgeable in this area.

Comments

  1. HARRY R. COLE says

    I READ YOUR ARTICLE WITH MUCH INTEREST ON STATUTE OF LIMITATION REGARDING FILING AN ACTION FOR CYBER DEFAMATION . YOU SAY IT’S 1 YEAR AFTER FIRST PUBLICATION.

    COULD THERE NOT BE A STRONG LEGAL ARGUMENT TO SUGGEST THAT IN FACT, TIME START’S FROM THE DAY A PERSON ACTUALLY SEES THE ALLEGED DEFAMATORY REMARKS. IN SHORT, I RESPECTFULLY SUBMIT THAT THERE IS NO STATUTE OF LIMITATION WHILST THE OFFENDING DEFAMATION REMAINS ON THE WEBSITE.

    HAS THIS AREA OF THE STATUTE LAW BEEN EXAMINED TO ESTABLISH ITS VALIDITY?

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