Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

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Thursday, January 5, 2006

Michigan Supreme Court Rules That Statute of Limitations for Defamation Actions Runs From Date Statement is Initially Published

In Mitan v. Campbell, the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that the statute of limitations begins tolling when the defamatory statement is first made, not when the statement is republished.

"Defendant was the public relations director of the Department of Consumer and Industry Services. On February 22, 2000, she was interviewed by a reporter from WXYZ-TV regarding employment claims made by plaintiff's employees. During the interview, defendant stated that plaintiff was a "bad egg," a statement that plaintiff claims was defamatory. The statement was broadcast by WXYZ-TV on February 25, 2000. Plaintiff filed a defamation complaint on February 26, 2001 (February 25 was a Sunday), more than a year after defendant made her statement but within a year from the date it was republished by WXYZ-TV. The limitations period for a defamation claim is one year. MCL 600.5805(9). The circuit court granted defendant summary disposition based on the statute of limitations, MCR 2.116(C)(7), ruling that defendant's statement to the reporter started the limitations period running, and that defendant could not be held responsible for the republication by WXYZ-TV. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded. n2 It concluded that defendant could be liable on the basis of the republication because it was plausible that the broadcast was the natural, and possibly intended, result of the interview. The Court found this was a factual issue to be considered on remand....MCL 600.5805(1) and (9) are clear and unambiguous. Our Legislature has clearly provided that a defamation claim must be filed within one year from the date the claim first accrued. The claim first accrued when the defamatory statement was made on February 22, 2000. The statute does not contemplate extending the accrual of the claim on the basis of republication, regardless of whether the republication was intended by the speaker....Because plaintiff filed suit against defendant more than a year after his claim first accrued, his cause of action is barred by the statute of limitations. The plain language of MCL 600.5805 is inconsistent with plaintiff's claim that a third party's expected republication of a defamatory statement affects the running of the limitations period for the initial statement. The statute provides a relatively short limitations period of one year; there is nothing in the statute suggesting that the period can effectively be lengthened where republication is anticipated. Rather than a rule of first accrual, the reasoning of the Court of Appeals changes the statute to a rule of last accrual. Such reasoning undermines the principles of finality and certainty behind a statute of limitations. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and the circuit court's judgment of summary disposition is reinstated. "

Read the entire (per curiam) ruling here.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/media_law_prof_blog/2006/01/michigan_suprem.html

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