Both the district and appeals courts ruled that because the statements originated in New York, where Donohue and the Catholic League are based, that the case was subject to the state's one-year statute of limitations, rather than Missouri law and its two-year statute of limitations. Couzens' attorney argued that the Missouri statute applied because the state was the site where he sustained the alleged injuries.
Rebecca Randles, Couzens' attorney, told NCR in an email an appeal was not pursued due to a belief that the case presented more of a state, rather than federal, issue, and the "slim chance" the Supreme Court would take it up. While she disagreed with the courts' ruling on the statute of limitations, she added, "The opinion of the lower court is pretty clear that Donohue defamed my client."
In a statement Thursday, Donohue, who was represented by the Thomas More Law Center, said, "I never libeled anyone." He celebrated the appeals window's closing, saying the suit was "knocked down by the courts" at every step.
The case dates back to December 2011 when Couzens went public with a lawsuit against the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, diocese alleging he and three other altar boys were sexually abused in the early 1980s by Msgr. Thomas O'Brien. That case, the first to reach trial in the diocese, concluded in October 2014 before reaching the jury with a $9.95 million global settlement of Couzens' and 29 other lawsuits.
At the onset of the lawsuit, the Kansas City Star published a series of reports on Couzens and the allegations. Shortly after, Donohue issued two statements about Couzens that questioned his character and why he waited to come forward about the abuse. Both were posted online and distributed throughout the Kansas City area by the Catholic League and its affiliate KC Catholic League.