What Is the ''Single Publication'' Rule ?
The single publication rule has been adopted in cases of alleged libel in mass media. See Williamson v. New Times, Inc., 980 S.W.2d 706, 710 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 1998, no pet.); Holloway v. Butler, 662 S.W.2d 688, 692 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1983, writ ref'd n.r.e.).
Under the rule, a plaintiff's cause of action accrues on the last day of the mass distribution of the printed matter containing the defamatory statement. Holloway, 662 S.W.2d at 692.
On that date, the publisher of the statement has made the libelous matter available to his intended audience and the tort is complete. by setting a single accrual date for claims of mass media libel, the rule prevents continually extended limitations periods based upon retail sales or secondary distributions of the printed matter.
The single publication rule is limited in its application, however.
The rule does not apply to separate printings of the same publication or to situations in which the same information appears in different publications. Id.
Under those circumstances, it is apparent that the publisher intends to reach different audiences and this intention justifies a new cause of action. See Hertzberg v. Wurzbach, 266 S.W. 190, 191 (Tex. Civ. App.-San Antonio 1924, no writ); cf. Schneider v. United Airlines, Inc., 208 Cal. App. 3d 71, 256 Cal. Rptr. 71, 76 (Cal. Ct. App. 1989).
In Hyde v. Hibernia National Bank, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals applied the "new audience" rationale to conclude the single publication rule did not apply to credit reports. Hyde v. Hibernia Nat'l Bank, 861 F.2d 446, 450 (5th. Cir. 1988).
The court held that each transmission of a credit report to a new audience resulted in a separate and distinct injury to which a separate statute of limitations applied. Id.