PETRO-LUBRICANT TESTING LABORATORIES, INC., and JOHN WINTERMUTE VS. ASHER ADELMAN, d/b/a eBossWatch.com A-5214-14T4In August 2010, defendant published an article on his website reporting on a complaint filed against plaintiffs by an employee containing allegations of gender discrimination and a hostile workplace environment. Over a year later, counsel for plaintiffs threatened defendant with a defamation lawsuit if the article was not removed. In response, defendant made minor changes to the article and re-posted it in December 2011. Although there was slightly different wording in the two articles and the title was changed, the allegedly defamatory content and substance was the same, and to some extent lessened.
The legislative purpose of favoring a short statute of limitations would be defeated if immaterial changes to an Internet post, that is viewed on a far wider scale and for an indefinite period of time than is traditional mass media, were to result in a retriggering of the statute of limitations on each occasion. Therefore, the statute of limitations will only be triggered if a modification to an Internet post materially and substantially alters the content and substance of the article.
The modifications made by defendant in the second article were intended to diminish the defamatory sting of the previously reported allegations. If a minor modification diminishes the defamatory sting of an article, it should not trigger a new statute of limitations.
The single publication rule is applicable, and the complaint filed in June 2012 is barred as untimely, as the statute of limitations commenced with the posting of the original article in August 2010. The grant of summary judgment to defendant is affirmed.
The dismissal of defendant's counterclaim for retaliation is also affirmed. Defendant did not have standing under the NJLAD to assert a claim of retaliation as he had no relationship with the aggrieved employee nor had he aided or encouraged her in asserting her rights; he was a publisher who claimed to have objectively reported on an employment litigation.