7:46am PT by Eriq Gardner
Media Outlets Beat Lawsuit for Naming Wrong Rapper Who Cut Off His Penis
After identifying the wrong penis, TMZ and a bunch of imitators have prevailed against a libel lawsuit thanks to space and time.
Marques Andre Johnson, who has performed with the Wu-Tang Clan-affiliated outfit Killa Beez, filed his lawsuit in Delaware in March 2016. His complaint targeted reports from two years earlier about how "a "rapper affiliated with Wu-Tang Clan was rushed to the hospital early Wednesday after he cut off his penis and then jumped off a second story balcony."
The story originally identified him as the cutter, but later, the story was rewritten to identify the real guy — Christ Bearer — who had done the gruesome deed.
"TMZ's original, inaccurate story immediately spread across the Internet and to television and radio news," stated the complaint that also named Gannet Company, CBS Interactive, Viacom, IHeartMedia and other companies as co-defendants.
In response to the lawsuit, the defendants aimed to chop it down by applying Pennsylvania's one-year statute-of-limitations instead of Delaware's two-year period for filing a timely suit.
Delaware federal judge Leonard Stark thus had to examine the state's borrowing statute, which provides that when a cause of action arises outside of the state, the shorter time limit is applied.
Johnson attempted to emphasize the Delaware connections, including his work and fan base there, but he was inside a Pennsylvania prison at the time the story came out.
Stark agrees with the media defendants that "Pennsylvania has the most significant relationship to Plaintiff's cause of action," adding there was nothing unique or more significant about the injury he suffered in Delaware.
"To the contrary, the presumption that Plaintiff is most injured in Pennsylvania is confirmed here by the allegations of the Amended Complaint," the judge writes. "When the false news report came out in April 2014, Plaintiff was threatened, harassed, and attacked by other inmates at the Pennsylvania prison where he was being held, requiring him to go into protective custody in that same prison."
The judge also refuses to make much of the fact that a majority of the defendants are incorporated in Delaware. He also rules that the statute of limitations wasn't tolled because Johnson discovered the reports almost immediately after they were initially published. He personally heard statements on local news and on radio at his jail.
And thanks to Pennsylvania law applying, the judge also accepts the neighboring state's "single publication rule," meaning that the original date the story appeared is what matters instead of continued publishing thereafter.
The long and short of this penis defamation lawsuit is that Johnson was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and as a result, his complaint over what truly appears to be fake news is deemed untimely. Here's the full opinion.