Considerations In California If the Statute of Limitations Has Expired on a Libel Claim

Defendants, those accused of libel, need to know the general legal rule that every repetition of a defamatory statement is a separate publication and creates a new cause of action.

In October 2014, a California appellate court reaffirmed the rule. Sanctioning earlier law without citing its language, the court endorsed earlier case law (See Schneider v. United Airlines, Inc., 208 Cal.App.3d 71(1985), stating the following:

“If a plaintiff is aware of the facts giving rise to a cause of action which accrued before the cause of action on which he is suing based on the same defamatory matter as his earlier cause of action but based on a separate publication, the statute of limitations on the later cause of action does not run from the time of the accrual of the first cause of action. [Citations omitted] Therefore, the fact that appellants had knowledge that defamatory information was published by respondents when they supplied the credit information to TRW [years ago] does not preclude the application of the rule that a party has a cause of action for libel each time the defamatory matter is published, even if the originator of the defamatory matter did not republish the defamatory matter, as long as republication should have been reasonably foreseeable by the originator.” (emphasis supplied)

The defamation Statute of Limitations re-starts at the time of even a much later republication of the original, similar defamatory statement on which a claim is time-barred.