Defining Defamation in West Virginia
There is a one year statute of limitations for filing a defamation – libel or slander – claim in West Virginia. To bring a libel or slander case to court, the plaintiff must show that a false statement was published or broadcast and read by more than one person. Additionally, they must prove any damages that were incurred as a result of the defamation.
Private Figure or Public Figure
When statements are made in the media (written or verbal) about public figures, special rules apply. In order to sue for defamation, a public figure must show that there was malice behind the publication of the statements. This can sometimes be difficult to do, but public figures are held to a higher standard. Public figures are those people who are in the public eye and would be considered famous or well known by reasonable people in the community.
Defenses Allowed for Defamation Cases
As with other states, West Virginia offers truth as the ultimate defense against libel or slander claims. If a statement is deemed to be true, there can be no case. Judges may also take into consideration if something is a privileged statement, or something that is being spoken about matters on the public record.
Defamation Per Se Civil Suits are Permissible in West Virginia
As with the majority of other states, defamation per se civil suits are possible in West Virginia. In these cases, the derogatory statement(s) are automatically considered to have caused damage. The exact statements that are considered defamation per se do vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction in West Virginia.
Recoverable Damages Allowed by West Virginia State Law
There are three main types of damages that are allowed under West Virginia defamation laws. First there is the actual damage that can be proven. Next are general damages, which are blows to a person’s character or reputation that make it difficult or impossible for him to work or cause emotional distress. Finally, there are punitive damages that may be given in some cases.
Recent West Virginia Law Activity
March 1, 2013: HB 2791 was introduced. The goal of the bill is to exempt “licensed surveyors from liability for defamation or slander of title.” Nothing has happened as of the time of this writing.