New York Statute of Limitations for Defamation Claims
A statute of limitations is a law that defines the time when a plaintiff brings and initiates legal proceedings against another. If a plaintiff fails to bring the claims in question within a specified timeline, the would-be plaintiff is barred from filing the claim. Otherwise, if the claim is filed late, the claim will be dismissed. The statutes of limitations have three primary reasons for existing. The reasons are:
- To prevent the occurrence of cruelty than justice
- To prevent the destruction of evidence by a defendant
- To encourage plaintiffs to go for the valid cause of actions with reasonableness
In libel and slander situations, plaintiffs in New York have to start an action within a year of the date the defamatory material has been communicated to a third party.
Libel removal: A cease and desist letter is an easier way to make another party know that a plaintiff means business. The letters can be used to save time and accomplish what the plaintiff seeks to do. If the letter is ignored, the services of a defamation lawyer can then be explored.
The Single Publication Rule
New York follows the single publication rule. The single publication rule is a doctrine that governs a defamation case of actual accrual date and the statute of limitations of the state. Under this rule, a plaintiff involved in a libel suit can only bring a single claim for every mass publication of a defamatory statement made by a publisher. The rule is intended to limit plaintiffs from making claims for every agency subsequently run with the defamatory material. The rule was set up to prevent and avoid an instance where there is a multiplicity of actions. As such, defendants are protected from excessive liability from a single publication. The single publication rule practically applies in a situation where a media outlet publishes various prints or copies of false and defamatory statements. The statute of limitations takes a toll when a statement is published after an individual post a defamatory statement online.
The single publication rule has various exceptions when used in New York. In one case, when one publishes a newspaper on a website in another print edition, the publication will be a republication. As a republic, it is an exception to the single publication rule since online publications and print publications are aimed at reaching different people. Accessing an article put on the internet after an initial publication cannot restart the statute of limitations for defamation on the online platform. The modification of a website and defamatory content on this website cannot be considered a republication. If the defamatory material placed on a website is relocated to another website, the relocation is a republication of the defamatory statement, therefore restarting the statute of limitations.
If an individual intends to start a defamation claim against another, it is important to determine the type of plaint he or she is. This is because of the legal rights and burden of proof afforded to a private and a public person. These rights vary significantly in defamation law. The case of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan set the stage for the distinction between private and public plaintiffs. The distinction helps to promote uninhabited debate involving public issues so that the First Amendment can be upheld. In the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan case, the Supreme Court established that if one is to succeed in a defamation claim, private and public plaintiffs need distinct burdens of proof.
Public parties such as celebrities, politicians and people with integral input in public decision-making have placed themselves to higher degrees of scrutiny by the public compared to average individuals. Therefore, the public is free in the interest of free speech, social policy and debate to feel safe to discuss issues concerning such people. The public needs to do this without the fear of legal action. Therefore, public persons have to show that their defendants made a statement with actual malice. Otherwise, they have to show that the defendant had the knowledge required to determine the falsity of the statement or that it was made with reckless disregard.
Private individuals like average individuals who do not have celebrity status or are not in a public office have not placed themselves to public scrutiny. They have chosen to keep their lives private. Therefore, such private individuals are only supposed to show that the defendant defamed them with ordinary negligence when compiling the publication or making the false statement intended to reach a third-party. Ordinary negligence is the care one would ordinarily exercise as a reasonably prudent individual when placed in a similar situation.
Since New York was at the center of the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan case, the stance of the state towards public and private officials has remained. This law has prescribed for a successful recovery of damages that public figures have to prove with evidence that convinces that the publication was malicious. The standard set in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan when determining whether an individual is a public figure is based on whether the plaintiff placed him or herself into the public issue or has taken steps in attracting attention as established in James v. Gannet 40 N.Y.2d 415, 353 N.E.2d 834 (1974). Actual malice in New York is all about the subjective state of mind possessed by the speaker or publisher when making the defamatory statement. Also, courts look to see if the publisher believed that the statement made was false or whether it was spoken recklessly while disregarding the truth.