Single Publication Rule used in defense of defamation suit

We represented our client, a state-wide media company, in a First Amendment defamation of character case. Our client had published online stories about a public figure who had been accused of sexual harassment. After a jury found in favor of the public figure in a civil sexual harassment case, his lawyer sent several letters asking our client to remove the stories from its website. The letter alleged the presence of the stories was defamation. The articles were not removed, and subsequently, a suit was filed.

We filed a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds of the statute of limitations had expired based on the Single Publication Rule and the fact the stories were published two years prior. Under the Rule, unless content is significantly altered after its initial publication date it is not considered re-published. We convinced the courts the rule applied to articles published over the internet in the same manner as in print media.

The plaintiff appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, which upheld the lower court’s ruling.