Jenner & Block

Firm Successfully Defends HuffPost in First Minnesota Decision Applying “Single Publication Rule” to the Internet

A Jenner & Block team led by Partner Katherine A. Fallow and including Partner Michael B. DeSanctis and Associate Rochelle P. Lundy recently won a defamation lawsuit on behalf of The Huffington Post, in the first Minnesota decision to apply the “single publication rule” to internet publications.  

The case involved former Minnesota Congressional candidate Jack Shepard, who claimed that HuffingtonPost.com maliciously libeled him in an article first published on May 20, 2010.  On June 25, 2012, he filed suit in federal district court in Minnesota, where the statute of limitations for a defamation claim is two years and the “single publication rule” is followed – that is, the statute of limitations begins to run when the communication at issue is first released to the public.  

The plaintiff argued that the article was repeatedly updated and republished online as late as May 25, 2011, and therefore, the limitations period did not begin to run until that date.  The Court disagreed and dismissed the complaint with prejudice, holding that “…the ‘new’ articles cited by Shepard appear to be hyperlinks to the original article, which do not restart the statute of limitations.  Accordingly, any subsequent republications of the article were incidental and the single-publication rule applies to bar Shepard’s claim.”  The Court also rejected Shepard’s claims of libel on the merits.