Note: This page covers information specific to Michigan and should be read in conjunction with the general section on retraction in the section on Correcting or Retracting Your Work After Publication which has additional information applicable to all states.
Michigan has a retraction statute, Mich. Comp. Laws 600.2911, that applies to libel "based on a radio or television broadcast," libel "based on a publication," and "other libel." Although the statute does not specifically state whether it covers online publications, the statute does not require that a libel based on publication be published in a specific medium. Additionally, the statute's inclusion of "other libel" gives rise to the possibility that future courts may apply the state's retraction law to an online publication.
Handling Requests to Remove or Retract Material in Michigan
If someone contacts you with a retraction request, you should first determine whether a retraction is warranted; review the steps under the handling a retraction request section of this guide for help in making this assessment. If you determine that a retraction is appropriate, you should follow the procedures outlined in the Michigan retraction statute so that you can avail yourself of the statutory benefit of limiting potential defamation damages.
Under the Michigan retraction statute:
- Before filing a lawsuit, a plaintiff must give notice to the publisher of the statements claimed to be libelous;
- Once the publisher receives the notice, it has a reasonable time to publish a retraction; and
- The retraction must be published or communicated in a manner as close to the original statements, e.g. the same size type, in the same editions, and as far as possible, in substantially the same position as the original libel.
If you comply with these procedures after receiving a retraction request and you are found to be liable for defamation, the plaintiff's ability to recover damages from you will be limited. Under the retraction statute, she will be able to recover only for her actual economic losses. You will be able to show your good faith and the jury will be able to consider your retraction in the mitigation of exemplary or punitive damages. Note that under Michigan libel law, "exemplary and punitive damages" are a species of "actual" damages, and are awarded to compensate the plaintiff for "the increased injury to feelings directly attributable to the defendant's fault in publishing the libel." Peisner v. Detroit Free Press, Inc., 421 Mich. 125, 131 (Mich. 1984) (emphasis in original).
Even if your online publishing activities do not fall within the scope of Michigan's retraction statute, your willingness to correct past errors in your work will provide several benefits. It will make your work more accurate and reliable, which will increase your credibility, influence, and (hopefully) your page views. It will also diminish the likelihood of your being sued in the first place, as it might placate the potential plaintiff. Furthermore, courts and juries may find a retraction shows your good faith, which will benefit you in a defamation suit.