What is the statute of limitations for a false light invasion of privacy claim under Tennessee law?

Posted on Aug 26 2013 3:16PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  The statute of limitations for a false light invasion of privacy claim is the same statute of limitations that applies to a claim for slander or libel, depending on where the false light claim is based on spoken or written words.  Tennessee keeps the statute of limitations consistent depending on if the words at issue are written or spoken.  The Tennessee Supreme Court in West v. Media Gen. Convergence, Inc., 53 S.W.3d 640, 648 (Tenn. 2001) held as follows:


we hold that false light claims are subject to the statutes of limitation that apply to libel and slander, as stated in Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 28–3–103 and 28–3–104(a)(1), depending on the form of the publicity, whether in spoken or fixed form.


The statute of limitations for a slander (verbal statements) claim in Tennessee is six months from the moment the words are uttered (the discovery rule does not apply to slander claims – See Quality Auto Parts, Inc. v. Bluff City Buick Co., Inc., 876 S.W.2d 818 (Tenn. 1994)) based on T.C.A. § 28-3-103, which provides:


Actions for slanderous words spoken shall be commenced within six (6) months after the words are uttered.


The statute of limitations for a libel (written words) claim in Tennessee is one year from the accrual of the cause of action (this is not necessarily the date the words were written down – the discovery rule applies to libel claims in certain contexts when the written words are not publicly available or accessible – See Leedom v. Bell, 1997 WL 671918 (Tenn.Ct.App. 1997)) as set forth in T.C.A. § 28-3-104(a)(1).  This statute provides as follows:


(a) The following actions shall be commenced within one (1) year after the cause of action accrued:

(1) Actions for libel, for injuries to the person, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, breach of marriage promise;


As a result, when evaluating the statute of limitations for a false light invasion of privacy claim, it is important to determine if the words were spoken or written.  This will allow you to determine whether the statute of limitations is six months or one year respectively. 


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TAGS: Statute of Limitations, Slander/Libel
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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. He practices in all areas of defense litigation inside and outside of Tennessee.

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