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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
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    3

    Default When Does the Statute of Limitations Start to Run for a Defamation Case

    My question involves defamation in the state of: Texas

    Libel in Texas has a one year statute of limitations and that year has expired on March 30, 2017. Criminal harassment has a two year statute of limitations.

    Problem: I became aware in April 2017 of some malicious and false statements that were made about me in a private message board in an online forum. How is it private? It is where the seven members of the Board of Directors and two employees of a nonprofit corporation communicate and is not visible to anyone else. One can visit the message board and never know it exists; threads and communication in this private forum cannot be seen by anyone who is not a Director or is not one of the two employees of the corporation.

    How I came to see what was written about me: I was duly elected to the Board of Directors in late 2016, and seated on the Board in December, 2016. I was, however, not granted access to the private Board of Directors area of the message board until very late January 2017 because I had yet to sign a document that I felt might be illegal. Once I was re-assured the document was legal, I signed it and was granted access to this private and hidden area for the Board of Directors. Then, while conducting research on prior corporation business, I found a thread about me that was written by another Director of the corporation. She stated I posted pornography on the Internet and also stated several other things that are untrue. She heavily suggested that the model in the picture might not be of legal age of consent. The thread goes for several pages, with all the Directors at the time chiming in. At one point, it is stated that I engage in child pornography. Her posting cost me my position within the corporation as a sub-contractor, and also damaged my reputation among some of the membership of this corporation who was told these lies by this person.

    I have spoken to several lawyers about this, including a district judge friend of mine. Most seem of the opinion that because the forum where this posting was made is hidden and private, I could not have known about it until I was granted access to the forum in early 2017. According to this group, the one year clock started ticking when I was granted access to this private area. One lawyer disagreed, however, and stated that if I was granted access to this private area on, say, January 30, 2017, and the post was made on March 30, 2016, I still had time under the first year's window. Maybe, but there are many, many threads in this private forum and I had no real cause to look for anything, which is why it was not found until April of 2017.

    Still another lawyer suggested I skip over the civil libel suit altogether and file a criminal complaint with the local police for harassment, which is a class B misdemeanor in Texas, and has two year statute of limitations. In his opinion, I would have damages more readily seen and provable (since it's hard to put a price on a damaged reputation as it's non-economic). I suppose I could, but I'm not 100% sure that I have a harassment case here under the statute I have found. But maybe I do?

    I do not take being called a child pornographer lightly, though, so maybe that is a path I can go down? But, but before I go that path, I am still curious about the defamation statute of limitations with regard to a private posting that would never have been seen by me until I was granted access to the private message board.

    By the way, after reading the thread, I feel that these Directors had an agenda to remove me from my position and were looking for an excuse to do it. Texas is a right to work state, so they did not even need a reason, but interestingly, they made up pornography and child pornography. I can assure you that if I were to assert that someone was involved in child pornography, I would file a report with the police and launch a criminal investigation. They did not do that nor did they seem very concerned with that aspect at all. Instead, it appears to have been little more than a conspiracy to have me dismissed from my position with the corporation.

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    1,130

    Default Re: Libel and Slander or Criminal Harasment and the Statute of Limitations

    Texas is a "right to work" state which means you can not be forced to join a union to have a job. I think you mean Texas is "at will" employment which means they can terminate an employee for any reason not against the law. If you were a subcontractor, you were not an employee and not under either "right to work" or "at will" but rather an independent contractor under a specific contract. What did your contract state about them cancelling your relationship with them (for what reasons)?

    That said I am not seeing how it damaged your reputation beyond that specific group of people if it was not made public, as you still were elected and seated onto the Board of Directors after that "conversation" took place. And you have to decide if you want to make the whole thing public by pressing charges, going to court etc. And having the public find out and wonder if it is true. Because you have to realize what they will hear. That you were accused (in private) of pornography. They may think there is some grain of truth in it for you to fight so defensively. And may choose to believe the untruth that they currently know nothing about. If you are now on the BoD, you have to realize that by doing so you WILL affect the non-profit corporation and any good they might be doing because this will be a scandal and divert attention and resources away from the reason for the non-profit. Honestly it sounds petty and I would try to move forward rather than looking backwards. But that's not legal advice....if you want legal advice, go back to your attorney.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Behind a Desk
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    98,846

    Default Re: When Does the Statute of Limitations Start to Run for a Defamation Case

    It sounds like one lawyer didn't correctly understand the discovery rule:
    Quote Quoting Deaver v. Desai, 483 S.W.3d 668 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.
    2015, no pet.).]For defamation claims, there is a one-year statute of limitations, which begins to run from the day the cause of action accrues. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem.Code § 16.002(a). Normally, a defamation claim accrues when the matter is published or circulated. See Velocity Databank, Inc. v. Shell Offshore, Inc., 456 S.W.3d 605, 609 (Tex.App. — Houston [1st Dist.] 2014, pet. denied). However, the discovery rule applies to an action for defamation if the defamatory statement is inherently undiscoverable or not a matter of public knowledge. Id. When the discovery rule applies, the limitations period begins to run when the claimant discovers, or through the exercise of reasonable care should have discovered, the existence of the defamatory statement. See Wheeler v. Methodist Hosp., 95 S.W.3d 628, 636 (Tex. App. — Houston [1st Dist.] 2002, no pet.).
    If it's the same lawyer, it's difficult to see that he understands harassment, either, as defined in the Texas Penal Code, Sec. 42.07. You can't be criminally harassed by conduct that you don't even know about, nor does what you describe appear to fit any of the definitions of conduct that can be criminally prosecuted as harassment.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: When Does the Statute of Limitations Start to Run for a Defamation Case

    Thank you for the responses. This story is so complicated I can't even write it all. The script would make a good movie, actually.

    This what I was looking for: 2015, no pet.).]For defamation claims, there is a one-year statute of limitations, which begins to run from the day the cause of action accrues. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem.Code § 16.002(a). Normally, a defamation claim accrues when the matter is published or circulated. See Velocity Databank, Inc. v. Shell Offshore, Inc., 456 S.W.3d 605, 609 (Tex.App. — Houston [1st Dist.] 2014, pet. denied). However, the discovery rule applies to an action for defamation if the defamatory statement is inherently undiscoverable or not a matter of public knowledge. Id. When the discovery rule applies, the limitations period begins to run when the claimant discovers, or through the exercise of reasonable care should have discovered, the existence of the defamatory statement. See Wheeler v. Methodist Hosp., 95 S.W.3d 628, 636 (Tex. App. — Houston [1st Dist.] 2002, no pet.).

    Very, very condensed story:

    I have been with the corporation almost 30 years, have served on the Board twice before in the 2000s, and held an official’s position for more than eight years. That is to say I have been around.

    Indeed the rumor that I was dismissed for kiddie porn was well-heard through the paddock at the track and forum where the corporation held its events and the members would post; the porn rumor was not confined to the Board room. Many, if not most, of the members heard the rumor and I was approached many times and asked if was true, partly because the lie sounded easy to believe because I was, for several years, a principal photographer for this corporation at its events.

    I had suspicions that someone on the Board had started this rumor in an effort to not only get me dismissed from my position in the corporation, but also to discredit me with the other members and to possibly bait me into saying or doing something that would lead me to be banned from the corporation for good. I had no proof of my belief and had no proof of which of the Board members was behind it all. I stayed in good standing and, being popular with the membership and having a long background with the organization, was nominated for, accepted, and won by the largest membership vote differential in corporation history, a spot on the Board. That was the last thing the Board members expected.

    But why would I believe the Board was behind all this? Because the corporation (collectively) and nine others - two employees of the corporation, six Board members, and one other person - are being sued (individually) by a former corporation member for defamation and what he believes to be gross malfeasance. (The plaintiff happens to be an attorney, too.) I can also see from the court records that he asked to see the books and records according to the Texas Business Code, and was denied, even though these records are supposed to be publicly available; that in itself is a misdemeanor. And the plaintiff? It turns out that I was a friend of his at the track, but then again, I am a friend of everyone at the track and know almost all of the members, so I (and many others) believed I was really let go because I was a FOTP (friend of the plaintiff) and was considered to be a threat to the defendants, all of whom I have known for years and used to be close to, but lawsuits make enemies of friends, right? They are being sued, are pizzed, and because they are pizzed, they want anyone who is a friend of the plaintiff gone. (Skipping ahead, when I found the post I mentioned in my first posting, I discovered almost exactly what I suspected: let's use the lie of porn to boot me because I was a friend of the plaintiff.)

    Last year a free-lance photographer for the corporation posted in another forum that I was dismissed for taking pix of under-aged girls I recruited from the race track, called me a pervert, and said that I had done "this" (taken kiddie porn pix). I took a screen shot of what he posted and filed suit against him. He settled with me out of court three weeks ago. The reason I settled is because he named the person who told him the lie, and agreed to testify on my behalf that he was lied to by her should I decide to take the Director who lied about me to court.

    Then I presented my findings and settlement agreement to the Board, and made a motion to remove the Director that lied about me from the Board for potentially starting a scandal. I pointed out how damaging this issue could be to the corporation. My motion to remove her from the Board was flatly rejected by the other Board members and called "not Board business" in spite of her March 2016 posting defaming me to the corporation's Board, by a corporation Board member, and on the corporation's Board forum.

    See, it’s a tangled web the world weaves, and some get caught in their own web.

    As for damage to the nonprofit, well, I am the last who wants to harm it, but my feelings are that a liar like the one on the Board now that made up kiddie porn stories about me is the first step in cleaning up the mess that has steered the corporation into the gutter. Besides, even though I could sue the organization, I will just sue her and take it from her pocket. The organization will not represent her like they are doing with the others being sued in the ongoing litigation. (That’s a story in itself and you would not believe it.)

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