PW reports: AuthorHouse Ordered to Pay Up
by Claire Kirch, PW Daily -- 8/8/2006
The Kansas district judge presiding over the defamation lawsuit brought by romance writer Rebecca Brandewyne against AuthorHouse ordered Friday that the POD subsidy publisher pay Brandewyne $200,000 in punitive damages. Brandewyne’s co-plaintiffs in the suit, her parents, also were awarded punitive damages of $20,000 each.
This past May, a Wichita jury found AuthorHouse guilty of publishing a book, Paperback Poison, in November 2003 by Brandewyne’s ex-husband that libeled her. The jury awarded Brandewyne $230,000 in actual damages (PW Daily, May 16).
In his 14-page decision, Judge Jeff Goering asserted that AuthorHouse “acted towards the plaintiffs with wanton conduct,” in publishing Paperback Poison, despite the fact that Gary Brock, the book’s author, had informedAuthorHouse during contract negotiations that iUniverse had rejected the manuscript on the grounds of possible libelous content.
The judge acknowledged that, based on its business model of dealing in volume, AuthorHouse “cannot read every book cover to cover,” and that the company, to a certain extent, is entitled to hold authors responsible for the content of their work. But, Goering noted, “The misconduct in this case is AuthorHouse’s failure to act when it had information that would have placed a prudent publisher on notice that the content of Brock’s book was harmful to the plaintiffs.”
Bryan Smith, AuthorHouse president, said he was disappointment in Goering’s decision, stating that he does not believe that AuthorHouse’s actions “justified the verdict or the damages awarded.” AuthorHouse canceled the book a month after publication.
In determining the damage award, Goering rejected AuthorHouse’s argument that any award be capped by the company’s gross income in 2002, the year AuthorHouse was formed. While not revealing AuthorHouse’s sales, Goering noted that the company’s 2002 gross income was 3.5% of its gross income in 2004 and 2.8% of its gross income in 2005.
AuthorHouse has 30 days to decide whether to appeal the award.
Sounds like if you write a book intending to libel your wife, just don't tell the publisher!