Defamation—limitation
Produced in partnership with 5RB
Defamation—limitation

The following Information Law guidance note Produced in partnership with 5RB provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Defamation—limitation
  • The ordinary time limit for defamation and malicious falsehood claims
  • Extension of the ordinary time limit for defamation claims
  • s 8 Defamation Act 2013 and limitation
  • Adding new parties or libel claims after expiry of limitation period

The ordinary time limit for defamation and malicious falsehood claims

A claimant must commence a claim for defamation within one year from the date on which the cause of action accrues, namely the date on which the defamatory statement is first published (section 4A of the Limitation Act 1980 (LA 1980), as inserted by section 5 of the Defamation Act 1996 (DeA 1996)).

It is irrelevant to the accrual of the cause of action in libel that the claimant was unaware of any publication at the time, and therefore the commencement of the limitation period for his claim.

In cases of most types of slander and malicious falsehood, the cause of action will accrue from the date on which financial damage is sustained by the claimant, and the limitation period may not be linked to the date of first publication.

Section 1 of the Defamation Act 2013 (DA 2013) introduced a requirement that the publication of a defamatory statement is not actionable unless it causes or is likely to cause serious harm. It was therefore thought arguable that the cause of action lies inchoate until there is evidence that serious harm is caused. However, in Lachaux, the Supreme Court clarified that that was not the case, finding that for defamation actionable per se (ie libel and certain types of slander) the cause