Libel & Slander Statute of Limitations: When Does The Clock Reset?

defamation statute of limitations
When is it too late to file a defamation case?

A recent defamation case out of Pennsylvania is a prime example of why it’s imperative to file slander and libel lawsuits within the defamation statute of limitations.

News Program Used The Wrong Picture For An Alleged Criminal

On October 15, 2011, CBS affiliate KDKA-TV ran a story about the arrest of a man named Christopher William Ghrist. KDKA producers included a picture of Ghrist in the broadcast. The problem? Christopher William Ghrist wasn’t the guy that law enforcement officials picked up; Christopher Wayne Ghrist was.

Misidentified Guy Suffers Because of CBS’ Mistake & Files Defamation Lawsuit

Directly after the program aired, the innocent Mr. Christ received over a hundred unwelcome messages, and his girlfriend wouldn’t let him near their child. He called the station and pleaded with them to fix the error, but to no avail.

It’s unclear why, but according to reports, Ghrist didn’t get around to filing a lawsuit until two years after the fact – on October 4, 2013.

Judge Dismisses Case Because Claimant Missed Defamation Statute of Limitations Cut-Off

Judging from available reports, Ghrist had a strong case. But, he didn’t file it time, as the statute of limitations for defamation in Pennsylvania is one year. Ghrist’s legal team argued that a subsequent online reference to the broadcast re-set the clock, but U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak disagreed, reasoning:

“[In] these circumstances, where the allegedly harmful publication began on or about October 15, 2011, and the content of that publication remained the same thereafter, even on the internet website, the single publication rule provides that the measuring point for counting down the one year statute of limitations also began on that date, and was not ‘refreshed’ each day thereafter that the offending story was accessible online.”

Talk To An Attorney About Your Defamation Situation

Are you dealing with a defamation situation? Are you hemming and hawing about whether or not to file? Don’t wait too long, because you may find yourself in the same situation as Ghrist.

That said, every jurisdiction has different rules about when the defamation statute of limitations clocks re-set. Some calculate from the date of first publication, while others allow the clock to re-set if something is republished – online or off.

If you’re ready to speak with an experienced defamation lawyer, who has helped hundreds of people and businesses with their defamation and trade libel issues, get in touch with Aaron Kelly. An AV-rated attorney, with a 10-out-of-10 rating on, Aaron is a top defamation litigator who knows how to solve problems quickly and effectively. Call or email today to begin the conversation.

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