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Defamation, Libel and Slander Statute of Limitations and the Delayed Discovery Rule

Defamation defined: Overly simplified, defamation is a verbal or written knowingly or knowable false statement of fact communicated to a third party (i.e. to someone other than the one being defamed), causing damage to reputation.

Statute of Limitations:

General Rule: A defamation (libel and/or slander) lawsuit must be filed within one year after the defendant first communicated each defamatory statement to a person other than the plaintiff.  See California Code of Civil Procedure 340(c) and Shively v. Bozanich (2003) 31 Cal. 4th 1230, 1237).

For statements made in a publication (examples: book, newspaper, magazine, or presentation to an audience), the claimed harm is deemed to have occurred when the publication was first generally or limitedly distributed to the public. Shively v. Bozanich (2003) 31 Cal. 4th 1230, 1246-1247; Hebrew Academy of San Francisco v. Goldman (2007) 42 Cal.4th 883, 893.  See also Civil Code Section 3425.3 (Single publication rule , "No person shall have more than one cause of action for damages for libel or slander...founded upon any single publication or exhibition or utterance, such as one issue of a newspaper or book or magazine or any one presentation to an audience."

Exception: But the one-year time period deadline starts to run (accrues) on the date that the plaintiff first discovered the facts constituting the defamation if with reasonable diligence he or she could not have discovered those facts earlier because it was communicated in an inherently secretive manner. Shively v. Bozanich (2003) 31 Cal. 4th 1230, 1237; Hebrew Academy of San Francisco v. Goldman (2007) 42 Cal.4th 883, 894; Christoff v. Nestle USA, Inc. (2009) 47 Cal.4th 468, 483.

However, for statements made in a “publication” (examples: book, newspaper, magazine, or presentation to an audience), the delayed discovery rule does not apply.  Shively v. Bozanich (2003) 31 Cal. 4th 1230, 1237, 1245-1246, 1250-1251.) (Hebrew Academy of San Francisco v. Goldman (2007) 42 Cal.4th 883,  893; Christoff v. Nestle USA, Inc. (2009) 47 Cal.4th 468, 482-483.)

See also CACI 1724.

Further see Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations.


List of Statute of Limitations specific articles on this website:

California_Statute_of_Limitations

Exceptions_to_Statute_of_Limitations_Tolling

Accrual Statute of Limitations

Legal Malpractice Statute of Limitations

Defamation Statute of Limitations

Fraud Statute of Limitations

Government Claim Statute of Limitations

CAVEATS / WARNINGS:

SOL laws are complicated: Statutes of limitations, and the court rules and cases that interpret and apply them, are complicated.  Even if you believe that the statute of limitation deadline might have passed or might be extended by an exception, do not rely on this article, but immediately seek consultation and legal advice from a knowledgeable California lawyer to determine if any of the time-extending exceptions or rules to the statue of limitations apply or not to your case.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is informational, only. The subject matter and applicable law is evolving and/or constant state of change.  No legal advice is given and no attorney/client or other relationship is established or intended.  The information provided is from general sources, and I cannot represent, guarantee or warrant that the information contained in this website is accurate, current, or is appropriate for the usage of any reader.  Consult with your own legal counsel before relying on any information on this website or this article.

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