Nirvana wins dismissal of 'Nevermind' naked baby's lawsuit

US District Judge Fernando Olguin in Los Angeles said Spencer Elden waited too long to claim Nirvana sexually exploited him, having sued more than 10 years after learning about the cover.

 "Nevermind" album cover by Nirvana (photo credit: FLICKR)
"Nevermind" album cover by Nirvana
(photo credit: FLICKR)

Nirvana has won the dismissal of a lawsuit by a man who claimed his depiction as a naked four-month-old baby on the cover of the band's seminal 1991 album "Nevermind" was child pornography.

In a decision on Friday, US District Judge Fernando Olguin in Los Angeles said Spencer Elden waited too long to claim Nirvana sexually exploited him, having sued more than 10 years after learning about the cover.

Other defendants included Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, late lead singer Kurt Cobain's widow Courtney Love, several record labels and photographer Kirk Weddle.

The lawsuit stemmed from Nirvana's use of a photo taken by Weddle in 1991 at the Pasadena Aquatic Center in California, which depicted Elden swimming naked toward a dollar bill pierced with a fish hook.

Elden was interviewed in 2003 at age 12 by Rolling Stone magazine about the photo, saying he was "probably gonna get some money from it," and recreated the image as an adult in 2016 with "Nevermind" tattooed on his chest.

Nirvana's Kurt Cobain plays in the now famous olive-green sweater on MTV Unplugged in 1993 (credit: screenshot)Nirvana's Kurt Cobain plays in the now famous olive-green sweater on MTV Unplugged in 1993 (credit: screenshot)

He nevertheless claimed in his lawsuit, which began in August 2021, that he met the statute of limitations because his injuries including emotional distress, lost earning capacity and "loss of enjoyment of life" continued into adulthood.

Was the argument valid?

The judge rejected that argument, saying it would effectively permit Elden to sue Nirvana indefinitely.

"In sum, plaintiff fails to allege that he knew of a violation that occurred while he was a minor or an injury that forms the basis of the claim within ten years of filing this action," Olguin wrote.

Elden had filed three versions of his complaint, and Olguin's dismissal prevents him from filing a fourth.

A lawyer for Elden did not immediately respond on Saturday to requests for comment. Lawyers for the defendants did not immediately respond to similar requests.

"Nevermind" features the song "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Sales topped 30 million.