As a general matter, if a statement is substantially true, it cannot be actionable as defamation. See Milgroom v. News Group Boston, 412 Mass. 9, 12-13 (1992). Under Massachusetts statutory law, however, "truth shall be a justification unless actual malice is proved." M.G.L. c. 231 Section 92. This potential limitation on the truth defense is unlikely to be constitutional and, indeed, Massachusetts courts have held that it does not apply to cases involving public-figure or public-official plaintiffs or cases brought against media defendants that deal with matters of public concern. Materia v. Huff, 394 Mass. 328, 333 n.6 (1985); Shaari v. Harvard Student Agencies, Inc., 427 Mass. 129, 134 (1998). No court has applied the statute in a case brought by a private plaintiff that involves issues not of public concern.

Neutral Reportage Privilege

Massachusetts has not recognized or rejected the neutral reportage privilege. Reilly v. Associated Press, 797 N.E.2d 1204 (Mass. App. Ct. 2003).

Statute of Limitations for Defamation

The statute of limitations for defamation in Massachusetts is three (3) years. See M.G.L. c. 260 sec 4.

Massachusetts has adopted the single publication rule, defining publication as the time when a work is "first made widely available to the public". See Abate v. Maine Antique Digest, 17 Mass. L. Rep. 288 (Mass. Super. Ct. 2004). The Abate court also explicitly extended the single publication rule to statements published on the Internet. For a definition of the "single publication rule," see the Statute of Limitations for Defamation section.

Michigan Defamation Law

Note: This page covers information specific to Michigan. For general information concerning defamation, see the Defamation Law section of this guide.

Elements of Defamation

In Michigan, the elements of a defamation claim are:

a false and defamatory statement concerning the plaintiff;

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