NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by a rapper affiliated with hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan who accused celebrity news website TMZ of defamation for reporting incorrectly that he attempted suicide by severing his penis and jumping off a second-floor balcony.
Marques Andre Johnson, known as Andre Roxx, missed a one-year statute of limitations by waiting 23 months after TMZ’s story was published to sue, Chief Judge Leonard Stark of U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Delaware, ruled on Tuesday.
Lawyers for Johnson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
TMZ is a unit of Warner Brothers Entertainment, which is owned by Time Warner Inc (TWX.N). Warner Brothers spokesman Paul McGuire declined to comment.
The story in question arose from apparent confusion between Marques Andre Johnson, who was associated with Wu-Tang affiliate Killa Beez, and Andre Johnson, who performed as Christ Bearer and was associated with Wu-Tang affiliate Northstar.
According to court papers, Christ Bearer’s suicide attempt was wrongly attributed in the April 16, 2014, story to the plaintiff, who was then serving a 16-month prison term in Pennsylvania.
Marques Andre Johnson said the error soon “spread like wild fire” across other media such as CBS Corp’s (CBS.N) CBS Radio, Gannett Co’s (GCI.N) USA Today, Viacom Inc’s (VIAB.O) MTV and the New York Daily News.
He said he was forced him to go into protective custody while in prison and his career was irreparably harmed, warranting damages.
The complaint said TMZ fixed but did not retract its story, while other media did not correct their versions.
Johnson said Delaware’s two-year statute of limitations should apply to his March 2016 complaint because his music was often showcased in the state, he had a “substantial” fan base in Delaware, and many defendants were incorporated there.
But the judge said Pennsylvania’s one-year deadline to sue applied because Johnson, a Philadelphia resident, suffered the most significant harm in that state.
“Plaintiff points to his special connections to Delaware - having a promoter, radio show, and concerts here - but they do not give Delaware a more significant relationship to his claims than the other states where he has lost fans and concert bookings,” Stark wrote.
Lawyers for CBS, Gannett, Viacom and the Daily News did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The case is Johnson v Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc et al, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware, No. 16-00185.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler