California Employees Defamation Blog
What is the Statute of Limitations for Defamation and When Does it Begin to Run?
California’s statute of limitations for defamation is one year. Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. § 340(c). Because the “rule of discovery” applies to defamation, the one year statute of limitations does not begin to run until the defamed victim actually discovers or reasonably should have discovered the defamatory statement. This means that even though a defamatory statement may have been made about you two, three, four or more years ago, you may still have an actionable claim for defamation so long as you file a lawsuit within one year of discovering that this defamatory statement was made about you.
For example, let’s say that one of your coworkers falsely told your employer that you had stolen money from the cash register. As a result, your employer fired you without giving you any explanation. You had no idea what you did wrong, and none of your former co-workers said anything about it. Finally, a year and a half later, after the statute of limitations expired, one of your former co-workers told you that one of the other workers had falsely accused you of stealing, and that was why you were fired. In California, the statute of limitations for your defamation case would begin on the day that the former co-worker told you that you had been falsely accused. The discovery rule would thus allow you to file a defamation case that you hadn’t even known you had until after the standard statute of limitations expired.