By Paul Alan Levy. Reposted from Public Citizen’s Consumer Law and Policy blog
About a year ago, the blogosphere was alight with discussion of an important statute of limitations decision from the federal court in Philadelphia, rejecting a libel suit brought by Arthur Alan Wolk, a well-known trial lawyer specializing in aviation accidents, against Walter Olson, a conservative blogger whose Overlawyered blog focuses on cases and lawyers that illustrate his support for the cause of tort deform and, indeed, his broad opposition to various forms of social legislation. Not content to pursue his arguments against that ruling on appeal, Wolk has filed a new lawsuit naming not only the original defendants but their lawyers and several other individuals and organizations.
In an April 2007 blog post, Olson’s blog questioned whether Wolk might have entered a settlement that underpaid his client to get scathing opinion about Wolk vacated, and whether the potential conflict of interest had been fully vetted. Wolk, insisting that the blog post was false in several ways, brought suit in May 2009 in Pennsylvania state court against Olson and others and invoked the discovery rule to avoid the one-year statute of limitations for libel suits by alleging that he had not discovered the critical blogs until he Googled himself in April 2009. The complaint itself set forth the blog post, and attached it as an exhibit, showing April 8, 2007 as the date of publication. The defendants removed the case to federal court and sought dismissal of the suit as untimely, noting that Pennsylvania, like most states, applies a one-year statute of limitations to libel claims. The court, accepting as true Wolk’s allegation about when he actually learned about the alleged defamation, nevertheless applied the mass media exception to the discovery rule and held that Wolk could not sue based on claims of ignorance about criticisms that were widely available to the public.