Kevin Clash is almost in the clear.
A New York appellate court has upheld the July 2013 dismissal of three sexual-abuse lawsuits filed against the man who puppeted Sesame Street favorite Elmo for almost 30 years before leaving the show in the wake of scandalous accusations.
It was determined last summer that the plaintiffs, who filed suit separately but were being represented by the same attorney, had failed to meet the statute of limitations for civil action in their respective cases.
And the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York agreed that the case was rightly dismissed because the plaintiffs didn't give any compelling reason as to why they were "unable to discover their injuries prior to 2012," when the suits were first filed.
The appellate decision, filed March 10 and obtained by E! News, states: "Because the plaintiffs failed to provide any basis for finding that they exercised 'due diligence' in uncovering their injuries, assuming arguendo that the psychological harm constituted the plaintiffs' legal injury for purposes, the discovery rule cannot apply."
The three plaintiffs, Cecil Singleton, Kevin Kiadii and an unnamed John Doe, had all alleged that they were minors when they started conversing with Clash either online or via a telephone chat line and then ended up having sexual encounters with the puppeteer and voice actor upon meeting up with him in New York.
"The statute of limitations is an arbitrary timeline that silences victims," the plaintiffs' attorney, Jeff Herman, said last summer regarding the lower court's dismissal. "We believe that the victims in this case are within the statute of limitations, but this ruling highlights the need for a window in New York to allow victims to have their day in court. This is the first battle. We plan to appeal the decision and continue the fight to be a voice for victims."
Two other men filed suit against Clash in 2012 as well: One plaintiff (who also chose to remain anonymous in his filing) dropped his complaint in April 2013.
The other, Sheldon Stephens, filed claims at both the federal and state level in Pennsylvania, and while the federal claim has since been dismissed, a motion to dismiss the claim based on state law is pending.
Regarding Stephens' federal claim, U.S. Middle District Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner in November dismissed Stephens' claim for damages under the federal Child Abuse Victims' Rights Act, ruling that he waited about a year too long to take legal action.
According to Pennsylvania's Patriot-News, Conner determined to hear more arguments before deciding whether to dismiss the lawsuit entirely or allow Stephens to keep pursuing the case in the federal court on a remaining sexual battery claim under Pennsylvania law.
—Reporting by Baker Machado