The $250 million lawsuit from 10 former American Idol contestants charging Fox, producers FreemantleMedia, former executive producers Nigel Lythgoe, various sponsors and others with racial discrimination looks to be over. And that’s mainly about timing, or rather time running out for most of the plaintiffs. “Defendants move to dismiss plaintiffs’ claims as untimely under various statutes of limitations…we dismiss all but four claims as time-barred,” U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald wrote in a 42-page memorandum and order (read it here). “Plaintiffs’ claims are time-barred because plaintiffs were disqualified on or before February 16, 2010, more than three years before the filing of the complaint,” the NY-based judge added.
Buchwald also denied an attempt by the plaintiffs to amend their initial complaint and tossed other federal claims.
The order comes almost a year and a half after the highly charged case was first filed. In that dense 429-page complaint, the contestants accused Lythgoe and showrunner Ken Warwick of “sabotaging their promising careers” based on their pasts and racial stereotypes.
Despite the heft of the initial complaint and several hearings since it was filed, Buchwald actually finds it light on proving the race and background points in an adverse manner. In fact, she notes in the case of plaintiff and Season 9 contestant Chris Golightly that the reason he was dumped from the amateur-centric Idol is because he was a pro. “While the complaint asserts that defendants disqualified Golightly because he was an African-American man with a criminal record, it offers no facts beyond this bare allegation of racism to show that either Golightly’s race or his criminal record motivated his disqualification,” she notes. “Rather, the complaint provides a clear motive for Golightly’s disqualification that does not turn on racial animus: Golightly’s participation in a preexisting music group.”
And, while an appeal from the plaintiffs’ lawyer James H. Freeman is possible, that seems to be that.
When reached by Deadline, defendant’s main lawyer Daniel Petrocelli of LA firm O’Melveny & Myers declined comment on the win for his guys.