Friday, October 02, 2015

California retraction can avoid libel damages

UCLA law prof E. Volokh reports
But in the law in many states, general and punitive damages — anything beyond the provable economic losses that qualify as special damages — are unavailable, at least as to certain defendants, unless (1) plaintiff has promptly demanded a retraction, and (2) the defendant has refused to promptly publish a retraction. If the defendant promptly publishes a retraction, it is only on the hook for libel damages.

Ah, but which defendants get the benefit of these statutes? Many states limit this to particular kinds of publishers. Indeed, until Monday, the California libel retraction statute (Cal. Civ. Code § 48a), which dates back to 1931, applied only to “newspapers” and “radio broadcasters”; ...

Now to the news: I’m pleased to say that Monday, a new version of § 48a — introduced by assembly member Donald Wagner — was signed into law, and that version covers Web publications.
So if anyone thinks that I have libeled him, he can demand a retraction, and I have a legal incentive to publish the retraction.

While the retraction does not get the publisher completely off the hook, most libel lawsuits result from a publisher refusing to correct a false story. Jurors are sympathetic to publishers who make honest mistakes, but not to those who refuse to correct damaging stories.

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