Time Limits to File a Defamation Lawsuit

Learn how long you have to make a claim for defamation (libel or slander) in your state before the statute of limitation expires.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

Each state has laws called "statutes of limitations," which set a time limit for filing different kinds of civil lawsuits. If you want to bring any kind of case in your state's civil court system, you'll need to understand and comply with the applicable statute of limitations filing deadline.

In the context of a defamation lawsuit, if the statute of limitations "window" closes before you get your case filed, you'll have lost your right to a civil remedy for your defamation-related harm, including injury to your reputation, financial losses, and other negative effects (called "damages" in the language of the law). So it's easy to see why it's crucial to pay attention to—and make sure you're in compliance with—these laws.

While the statute of limitations applies to lawsuits filed in court, it's important to have the relevant filing deadline in mind any time you think you might have a libel or slander claim. Maybe you're engaged in settlement talks with the party who defamed you, and you're pretty sure you're going to settle for a fair amount. There's still the chance that settlement negotiations will break down, and you always want to have the option of filing a defamation lawsuit in court (or at least make the credible threat to do so). If the statute of limitations deadline has passed, and the other side knows it, you'll have lost your leverage at the settlement table.

Check out the list below for the details on the defamation statute of limitations in your state. You'll see that the filing deadlines typically range from one to three years, with some states setting different time limits depending on the type of defamation (libel or slander) being claimed.

Defamation Statute of Limitations State-by-State

State Statute of Limitations
Alabama 2 years
Alaska 2 years
Arizona 1 year
Arkansas 3 years (libel); 1 year (slander)
California 1 year
Colorado 1 year
Connecticut 2 years
Delaware 2 years
Washington, District of Columbia 1 year
Florida 2 years
Georgia 1 year
Hawaii 2 years
Idaho 2 years
Illinois 1 year
Indiana 2 years
Iowa 2 years
Kansas 1 year
Kentucky 1 year
Louisiana 1 year
Maine 2 years
Maryland 1 year
Massachusetts 3 years
Michigan 1 year
Minnesota 2 years
Mississippi 1 year
Missouri 2 years
Montana 2 years
Nebraska 1 year
Nevada 2 years
New Hampshire 3 years
New Jersey 1 year
New Mexico 3 years
New York 1 year
North Carolina 1 year
North Dakota 2 year
Ohio 1 year
Oklahoma 1 year
Oregon 1 year
Pennsylvania 1 year
Rhode Island 3 years (libel); 1 year (slander)
South Carolina 2 years
South Dakota 2 years
Tennessee 1 year (libel); 6 months (slander)
Texas 1 year
Utah 1 year
Vermont 3 years
Virginia 1 year
Washington 2 years
West Virginia 1 year
Wisconsin 3 years
Wyoming 1 year

Getting Help With a Defamation Case

If you've compared the details in the above chart with your own situation, and you think time might be running out on your right to file a libel or slander lawsuit under your state's rules, it might be worth it to talk to an experienced legal professional. Learn more about how a lawyer can help with a defamation lawsuit. And if you're ready to reach out to a lawyer in your area now, you can use the connection features right on this page.

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