Statute of Limitations

Statute of Limitations for Intrusion

"Statute of Limitations" is a term used by courts to describe the maximum amount of time plaintiffs can wait before bringing a lawsuit after the events they are suing over have occurred. This time limit is typically set by state statute and is intended to promote fairness and keep old cases from clogging the courts. Generally speaking, the limitations period for intrusion claims begins to run on the date when the intrusion occurred.

Court of Appeals Affirms that Single Publication Rule Applies to Internet

In a case of first impression in Texas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that the "single publication rule," which states that the statute of limitations period for libel begins to run when a defamatory statement is first published, applies to publications on the Internet.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Nationwide v. Belo Corp.

Date: 

07/28/2004

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Belo Corp., the Dallas Morning News; and Scott Burns

Type of Party: 

Large Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Media Company

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas

Case Number: 

3:06-cv-00600

Legal Counsel: 

Richard Michael Goehler; Monica Louise Dias; Paul C Watler

Publication Medium: 

Print
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

On July 29, 2003, the Dallas Morning News published in print and on its website an allegedly defamatory article by financial writer Scott Burns about an accelerated mortgage program offered by Nationwide Bi-Weekly Administration, a company that provides mortgage payment services for borrowers. The article, among other things, accused Nationwide of engaging in deceptive business practices.

Nationwide filed a complaint in Ohio state court on July 28, 2004, asserting claims for defamation, tortious interference with prospective business relations, and business disparagement against the Dallas Morning News, its owner Belo Corp., and Burns. Nationwide did not, however, serve the complaint on any of the defendants until June 2005. Shortly thereafter, Defendants successfully removed the case to federal court in Ohio, whereupon the court transferred venue to the Northern District of Texas.

On May 30, 2006, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Nationwide had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because Texas' 1 year statute of limitations for libel claims barred Nationwide's lawsuit.

On October 16, 2006, the court granted Defendants' motion, holding that Nationwide failed to exercise diligence in serving the defendants and that under the single publication rule, the limitations period expired in July 2004.

Nationwide appealed the decision and on December 21, 2007, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal, holding that
the continued availability of an article on a website should not result in republication, despite the website’s ability to remove it. Perhaps more important than the similarities between print media and the Internet, strong policy considerations support application of the single publication rule to information publicly available on the Internet. See Firth, 775 N.E.2d at 466 (discussing the “potential for endless retriggering of the statute of limitations, multiplicity of suits and harassment of defendants” and warning of a corresponding chilling effect on Internet communication). We agree that these policy considerations favor application of the single publication rule here and we note that application of the rule in this context appears consistent with the policies cited by Texas courts in adopting and applying the single publication rule to print media: to support the statute of limitations and to prevent the filing of stale claims. See Holloway, 662 S.W. 2d at 691.
As to the business disparagement and tortious interference claims, which are normally entitled to a 2 year statute of limitations under Texas law, the court stated that when allegedly defamatory statements form the sole basis for a business disparagement or tortious interference claim, defamation’s one-year statute of limitations applies.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

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