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Statute of Limitations for Defamation/Libel in NY and MA are different. Which one applies in this case ?

New York, NY |

PersonA in NY wrote an email to PersonB in MA more than a year ago suggesting that PersonB may have defrauded PersonA. No one else was copied. PersonB threatens to sue for defamation/libel. Statute of limitations for libel in NY is 1 year, MA is 3 years. PersonA has no assets or interests in MA. Can PersonB sue for defamation/libel based on this email ? Would MA courts accept such a complaint ?

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Attorney answers 5


Yes, the court would accept it. No, it would not survive a motion to dismiss.

The statute of limitations is irrelevant. Because the statement was not published to a third party it is not defamatory.

Under the rules governing the conduct of attorneys in New York it may be necessary to remind you that this answer could be considered attorney advertising.


Choice of law issues can be complicated and fact specific. It is possible that MA would apply it's own law because it has an interest in protecting its citizens and the email was sent there.

I am a former federal and State prosecutor and have been doing criminal defense work for over 16 years. I was named to the Super Lawyers list as one of the top attorneys in New York for 2012 and 2013. No more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by Super Lawyers. Martindale-Hubbell has given me its highest rating - AV Preeminent - in the areas of Criminal Law, Personal Injury, and Litigation. According to Martindale-Hubbell”AV Preeminent is a significant rating accomplishment - a testament to the fact that a lawyer's peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional excellence." Fewer than 8% of attorneys achieve an AV Preeminent rating. I also have the highest ranking – “superb” – on Avvo. The above answer, and any follow up comments or emails is for informational purposes only and not meant as legal advice.


From a Massachusetts or New York perspective, no defamation has occurred. B could sue and would lose quickly on a motion for summary judgment. B would be wasting his/her time and money to sue.

To questioners from West Virginia & New York: Although I am licensed to practice in your state, I practice on a day-to-day basis in Massachusetts. I answer questions in your state in areas of the law in which I practice, and in which I feel comfortable trying to offer you assistance based on my knowledge of specific statutes in your state and/or general principles applicable in all states. It is always best, however, to work with attorneys and court personnel in your own area to deal with specific problems and factual situations.


You can't defame a person in a communication to that person only. At least one third person has to be made aware of the contents of the communication, and the party being defamed must be damaged. Unlikely that this is a case at all. As to choice of law, generally, the law of the state with the most significant contacts has its laws applied with respect to choice of law issues in most instances. Not clear to me how that would be resolved here.


Motion to dismiss

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