Is There a Federal Defamation Statute of Limitations?

Although there is no specific federal defamation statute of limitations, other federal or state law areas may determine your defamation claim time limit.

What Is the Statute of Limitation of Defamation?

The statute of limitations refers to the period when one can bring forth legal claims over a defamatory statement or false statements made by a defendant.

The limitation was set up to ensure the plaintiff will not file a defamation case years after a defamatory event out of malice. The statute of limitations intends to ensure the witnesses and information in legal claims are current.

The statute also ensures that the defendant has ample time to notice impending action, thus making it possible to prepare a defense against the charges.

While there are many federal tort laws defamation, there are no federal laws on libel. Each state in the U.S. typically has laws that set out limitations on filing defamation cases. 

Given that each state has its statute of limitations for a defamation suit, it is crucial to get legal advice from a defamation lawyer if you intend to bring forth such a lawsuit or have been charged with one.

The defamation lawyers at the Mullen Law Firm have extensive experience and knowledge on defamation law and the legal options available if you are facing such a case. Contact us today as we provide legal representation and advice to persons who have been accused of defamation or intend to file defamation lawsuits.

Federal Defamation Law and Defamation Claims

The statute of limitations period has several exceptions and legal requirements, but the single publication rule is the most important.

According to the single publication rule, the statute of limitations begins when the false statement is communicated or published. Under the law, the first publication is considered in determining the limitation period.

If a person has uttered false statements about another on different occasions, the limitations period begins on the date of the first utterance or publication.

It is important to note that the single publication rule has several nuances, and several clarifications and exceptions may apply. As such, we always recommend that you take action as soon as you learn that another person made false statements against your entity or yourself.

If you need legal advice, you need to contact the Mullen Law Firm, which has skilled and experienced defamation attorneys ready to assist you. Our legal professionals have a solid understanding of the civil procedure and law on defamation, and we may be able to get you a favorable outcome.

Is Defamation a Federal Question?

Defamation is usually not a federal question, and the statute of limitations regulations and laws that will be applied will depend on the location where you file.

Each state in the U.S. usually has its statute of limitations, with most limiting to a year (some are as long as three years).

Note that just because you live in a particular state doesn’t necessarily mean that you can or must file your defamation claim in the state. By working with a lawyer, sometimes the legal advice may be that you need to file the defamation lawsuit in another state.

For instance, you may opt to file your suit where you lost business or incurred other financial losses. You could also file in the jurisdiction where most of your clients live or even in more than one jurisdiction.

At the Mullen Law Firm, we always advise that you call us as soon as possible to establish an attorney-client relationship. Once we have that confidential relationship, we can begin working on your lawsuit, looking at all the ways we can argue in court or outside it to get favorable outcomes.

Our firm is led by a reputable and experienced internet lawyer and general defamation lawyer who may help you get favorable outcomes with your defamation case.

Does The First Amendment Protect Defamation?

Some jurisdictions have clearly defined defamation as opposed to free speech. Given that free speech is one of the first vital aspects of the Constitution, defamation is sometimes invoked in such lawsuits.

In most instances, giving an opinion will be protected from defamation proceedings. On the other hand, statements made or published that are shown to be patently false and may result in harm or difficulty to the plaintiff are not protected under free speech.

Given that it can be complex to determine whether the information contained in an utterance or publication falls under free speech or not, you should always work with a lawyer if you intend to bring a defamation case.

Elements of Defamation: What Is a Defamatory Statement?

To prove defamation, four elements need to be proved, which include:

  1. A false statement that was made out to be a fact.
  2. Communication or publication of that statement.
  3. Fault amounting to negligence.
  4. The publication resulted in harm or damages to the entity or person who was the subject of the statement.

Different states usually have varying anti-defamation statutes, which are also interpreted differently in the courts. Other elements that may be applied in state-specific courts include:

  1. The burden of proof standard on defamation claims – this is usually on the plaintiff who has to prove at least negligence on the part of the defendant.
  2. Actual malice standard – According to the New York Supreme Court, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant published or made a defamatory statement with reckless disregard to the truth or falsity.

Types of Defamation: Slander and Libel

Slander is making a false statement orally, while libel is making a false statement in writing or another permanent form. The distinction between the two types of defamation usually comes down to the means of communication.

As a general rule, libel is more severe because it can be stored and accessed by others, while slander is fleeting and usually harder to prove. The state and federal court systems will have different statutes that apply to slander and libel.

It is essential to work with a lawyer who understands the specific state and federal laws that may apply to your case. As technology evolves, so do how people can communicate defamatory statements. This means that you may need an attorney who is up-to-date on the latest trends in defamation law.

Exceptions to the State & Federal Defamation Statute on Defamation Lawsuits

There are several exceptions to the statute of limitations on defamation in the United States. These exceptions usually result from circumstances that make it necessary to either pause or extend the time for making defamation claims.

Some of the exceptions that could alter the period for the statute of limitations include:


Anonymous Speech

If the perpetrator of defamation happens to be anonymous, in some states, the statute of limitations will not run until the victim finds out who they are. This is often referred to as a John Doe claim, and the legal exception is known as fraudulent concealment.

After filing a John Doe lawsuit, the statute of limitations qualifies for the fraudulent concealment exception. The anonymous publisher or poster can still be added to the complaint once uncovered. It is at this point that the statute of limitations starts running.


The Discovery Rule

The discovery rule in most states has an exception on the statute of limitations that is active until you become aware of the defamatory statement.

In some instances, the courts assert that the discovery date is when the victim should have discovered the defamatory statements or publications if they were a person of reasonable diligence.

Note that this rule will not apply to online defamation. The rule is also not applicable to anything published that is accessible to anyone or the public, even if the plaintiff only comes to learn of it at a later date.


The Victim Is a Minor

In certain jurisdictions, a claim can still be brought on what would otherwise be time-barred as long as the victim is underage. The statute of limitations only begins to run once the victim turns 18.

The exception also applies to victims who had been declared legally incompetent when the defamatory statement was uttered or published.


Exigent Circumstances

Anytime exigent circumstances make it impossible or impractical to file a complaint, some states will extend the statute of limitations.

For instance, in case of a pandemic in which the court was shut down, and complaints could not be filed promptly, reasonable exceptions on limitations of filing periods may be made for the plaintiffs.

Consult the Best Internet Defamation Law Firm Before Filing a Defamation Lawsuit

At the Mullen Law Firm, we conduct a thorough analysis of your case and file your case at just the right time. We analyze the entirety of your case and circumstances to ensure we have taken into account all possible claims and defenses.

We also consider old claims since we have the skill and experience to know that just because the statute of limitations seems to have passed, that does not mean there are no options we can take.

Whether looking for an experienced New Jersey internet lawyer or just a general defamation lawyer, you have come to the right place.

Contact us today to establish an attorney-client relationship and begin working on your case. We have provided our services to many clients defamed or accused of defamation, and we may do the same for you.

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