Defamation Statute of Limitations

The defamation statute of limitations in Colorado is one year.

defamation statute of limitations
Pic: Caryn, Pexels

If you’re trying to bring a defamation lawsuit against another person or company, the defamation statute of limitations says that you have one year from the date the legal action accrues to file suit or be barred from filing suit.  Sounds simple, right?  Not so fast.

What if I didn’t find out about the defamation until recently, but it’s been over a year since the defamatory statement was published?

Back in the day, the statute of limitations clock would start ticking as soon as the defamatory (libelous) statement was published.  So, it didn’t matter if you knew about it or not.  One year was one year.  If you didn’t hear about it until after that year had passed, tough luck.

Eventually (and luckily), the law evolved.  Now the cause of action accrues on the date both the injury and its cause are known or should have been known by the exercise of reasonable diligence.  C.R.S. 13-80-103, 108.

What does “reasonable diligence” mean?

As usual, the courts only muddy the waters.  According to one court in Colorado, “‘Reasonable diligence’ is commonly understood to mean a fair degree of diligence expected from someone of ordinary prudence.”  Wells Fargo Fin. Colo., Inc v. Olivas, 410 P.3d 1284 (Colo. App. 2017).  

Do you have to Google yourself everyday as an “exercise of reasonable due diligence?”  Every week?  How many webpages do you have to sift through?

Safe to say that whether or not a person has exercised reasonable due diligence is going to hinge on the facts of the case.

What if the internet post was posted over a year ago, but the webpage is still live today?

Colorado, the “single publication” rule, and the statute of limitations.

Good question.  Colorado hasn’t really answered this question definitively.  Here’s Judge Babcock’s hot take in a Colorado federal district court case, Bloom v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56133: 

“Numerous decisions stand for the proposition that posting of statements on the Internet should be treated in the same manner as publication in traditional media, and that publication on web sites therefore is subject to the single publication rule.

Under that rule, ‘Any one edition of a book or newspaper, or any one radio or television broadcast, exhibition of a motion picture or similar aggregate communication is a single publication.’  The single publication rule is an exception to the general maxim that ‘each of several communications to a third person by the same defamer is a separate publication.’ 

While recognizing the distinctions between Internet publications and publications in traditional media, the [majority] of courts to consider this question have applied the single publication rule. 

. . . [L]ike the publication of a book, the initial posting of material on a web site constitutes a discrete act of publication. And, once the material is posted, no further act by the publisher is necessary to make the information available to the public.  Because the general weight and trend of authority favors applying the single publication rule to Internet publications, I conclude that Colorado courts would do so in this case.”

Let’s break that legalese down.  Basically, what the court is saying is that the date the defamatory post was posted on the Internet is controlling and the fact that it’s a live, ongoing webpage is not material.  It’s considered to be a singular post.

Example: Somebody posts a defamatory post about you on the internet.  It was posted a year ago.  It’s been on the Internet for 365 days.  Is it one cause of action or 365?  Just one.

That said, there isn’t any controlling Colorado authority out there that has formally adopted the “single publication rule” with respect to internet posts.  We can only guess what Colorado courts would do.  And that’s adopt the single publication rule for Internet posts.

What does “one year” mean?

When does the one-year statute of limitations run?

If the post was posted on April 15, 2021, is one year April 15, 2022?  According to Judge Robert D. Sack, “[j]urisdictions differ on when, in relation to the moment of the first publication, the statute expires.”  Sack on Defamation, 3d ed., 2-93.

Luckily, in Colorado, we’ve made it simple and the anniversary date is the applicable deadline.  Therefore, in our example, Aprl 15, 2022 would be the deadline.

However, if your attorney waits until the very last possible day to file suit without a really, really good reason for doing so, fire that lawyer now.  They are playing with fire.

Contact Us

If you have questions as to whether you have a valid defamation claim, and whether the statute of limitations has run, call Jeff or Malissa today at Marathon Law to schedule your case evaluation.  303-704-1222.