Most of the privileges and defenses to defamation can be defeated if the plaintiff proves that the defendant acted with actual malice. The fair report privilege is the exception to this rule; it cannot be defeated by a showing of actual malice. Alpine Indus. Computers, Inc. v. Cowles Pub. Co., 57 P.3d 1178, 1188 (Wash. App. Ct. 2002).
Fair Report Privilege
Washington recognizes the fair report privilege. The privilege extends to accurate reports of court proceedings, as well as documents filed in those proceedings. See Mark v. Seattle Times, 635 P.2d 1081 (Wash. 1981). A plaintiff cannot defeat the fair report privilege by a showing othat the defendant acted with actual malice. Alpine Indus. Computers, Inc. v. Cowles Pub. Co., 57 P.3d 1178, 1188 (Wash. App. Ct. 2002).
Neutral Reportage Privilege
It is unclear whether the neutral reportage privilege exists in Washington.
The Washington Supreme Court noted the existence of the neutral reportage doctrine and that there was a "modern" trend towards rejecting it, but declined to rule on the privilege as neither party had raised the issue. Herron v. Tribune Publ'g Co., 736 P.2d 249, 260 (Wash. 1987).
However, at least one lower court recognized the neutral reportage privilege in a case involving a newspaper publishing defamatory allegations concerning a businessman made by anonymous union sources. Senear v. Daily Journal American, 8 Media L. Rep. 2489, 2492-93 (Wash. Super Ct. 1982).
Wire Service Defense
CMLP has not identified any cases in Washington concerning the wire service defense. If you are aware of any cases, please contact us.
Statute of Limitations for Defamation
The statute of limitations for defamation in Washington is two (2) years. See Wash. Rev. Code sec. 4.16.100.
The Washington Supreme Court has adopted the single publication rule. Herron v. KING Broad. Co., 746 P.2d 295 (Wash. 1987). For a definition of the "single publication rule," see the Statute of Limitations for Defamation section.
The CMLP could not locate any cases in Washington that apply the single publication rule in the context of a statement published on the Internet. If you are aware of any Washington cases that acknowledge the single publication rule in the Internet context, please notify us.
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