Asked in Libel & Slander for California

Q: Can I sue someone who defamed me online after two years of posting the defamation but is still there?

Two years ago, a woman falsely claimed in an online magazine article that while working for me, I sexually harassed her. She couldn't work for me because she had no work permit. She had suggested paying her in cash but I refused, so she retaliated with this accusation.

Despite the lack of evidence, my employer suspended me pending an investigation. So I sued them. Later, the investigation cleared me of sexual harassment, but my employer refused to announce the results and fired me in retaliation for suing them.

The lawsuit against my employer is ongoing, but in the meantime, I am unable to get a job because women's allegations are still online and uncontested. can I sue the woman for defamation?

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2 Lawyer Answers
Robert Kane
Robert Kane
  • Eagan, MN
  • Licensed in California

A: Yes, you can "sue someone who defamed [you] online after two years of posting the defamation but is still there." Based on your post, you have some big hurdles to clear to make it worth it.

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, the statute of limitations for defamation claims is generally one year from the date the defamatory statement was first published. However, there are some exceptions and factors that may extend the time limit:

1. Discovery Rule: If you did not discover the defamatory statement until after it was published, the one-year clock may start from the date you discovered or reasonably should have discovered the statement.

2. Republication: If the defamatory content is republished on a later date, it may be considered a new instance of defamation, restarting the one-year clock.

3. Continuing Violation: If the defamatory content remains online and accessible, some courts may consider it a continuing violation, allowing a defamation claim to be filed as long as the content remains available.

Given that the allegations are still online and uncontested after two years, you may be able to argue for an exception to the one-year statute of limitations based on the continuing violation theory. However, this is a complex legal issue, and the success of such an argument would depend on the specific facts of your case and the court's interpretation.

It is essential to consult with an experienced defamation attorney who can review the details of your situation and provide guidance on your legal options. They can help you assess the strength of your case, potential damages, and the best course of action to address the false allegations and their ongoing impact on your reputation and employment prospects.

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