(CN) – The self-proclaimed but officially denied biological father of LeBron James waited a hair too long to claim that the basketball star defamed him, a federal judge ruled.
Leicester Bryce Stovell, a lawyer, made his first paternity claims against James in a 2010 pro se lawsuit. That defamation and fraud complaint alleged that James and his mother had spread lies and falsified the results of a paternity test he said must reveal him as James’ father.
After a federal judge dismissed the case, Stovell filed suit again on April 29, 2013, citing a statement from James that SI had run a year earlier. It said: “My father wasn’t around when I was a kid, and I used to always say, ‘Why me? Why don’t I have a father? Why isn’t he around? Why did he leave my mother?’ But as I got older, I looked deeper, though. ‘I don’t know what my father was going through, but if he was around all the time, who would I be today?’ It made me grow up so fast. It helped me be more responsible. Maybe I wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”
Stovell was not mentioned in the SI article, but he claimed to be defamed by it because his first lawsuit received “worldwide media attention.”
James moved to have the case dismissed, arguing that the statement is either true or an opinion and could not be understood as a reference to Stovell.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly dismissed the case as untimely in a ruling dated Monday, Labor Day.
Although the date on the cover of the SI issue containing the article says April 30, 2012, it was on the newsstands on April 25.
Because Stovell filed his lawsuit on April 29, 2013, the clock ran out on the statute of limitations, according to the opinion.
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