Defining Defamation in West Virginia
West Virginia has a one year defamation statute of limitations — meaning plaintiffs have one year, from the time of the incident, to file a lawsuit.
To bring a libel or slander case to court, the plaintiff must show that a false statement of fact was published or broadcast and consumed by one or more persons. Additionally, claimants must prove damages 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 the defendant acted with actual malice. This can sometimes be difficult to do, but public figures are held to a higher standard.
Truth Is A Defense Against Defamation In West Virginia
As with other states, West Virginia offers truth as the ultimate defense against libel or slander claims. If a statement is deemed true, in nearly all instances, a court will dismiss the case. Judges may also take into consideration if something is privileged or a matter of public concern — which can affect litigation logistics.
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 (for example: calling someone a criminal). The exact statements that are considered defamation per se vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction in West Virginia.
Recoverable Damages Allowed by West Virginia State Law
There are three main types of damages 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.
West Virginia Defamation Law Updates
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.