On Monday a federal judge in Montana tossed out a lawsuit filed by four book buyers against Greg Mortenson and Penguin on the grounds that THREE CUPS OF TEA’s alleged fabrications deceived the quartet into believing the book was nonfiction. In dimissing the complaint charging fraud, deceit, racketeering and breach of contract, US district judge Sam Haddon said the lawsuit, which has been pending for more than a year, was based on “imprecise, in part flimsy, and speculative” claims and that the further pursuit of legal action “would be futile.”
Haddon was particularly critical of the plaintiffs’ racketeering claims, saying they were “fraught with shortcomings, including failure to satisfy causal elements, failure to specify the roles of the Defendants, not adequately pleading enterprise theories, and failure to specify an actionable, identifiable racketeering activity. Failure to adequately address the causal elements is the ultimate and fatal flaw.” In addition, the plaintiffs’ argument that “they paid approximately $15 for [Mortenson’s book’ because they were represented as true was, in Judge Haddon’s estimation, “overly broad.”
The judge also took issue with the plaintiffs’ lack of differentiation between allegations against Mortenson and Penguin, nor did they inform the defendants “separately of the allegations surrounding any alleged participation in the fraud.” Since the racketeering argument did not hold water, the fraud argument also failed Judge Haddon’s legal test.
Finally–and perhaps most importantly for any future such disputes–allegations of being duped into a conspiracy of forking over $15 per trade paperback copy were deflated further by the Judge, who said there’s more to a contract than implying that by “writing, publishing, advertising, marketing, and promoting [the Books] as nonfiction and true stories, the characteristics of said books became an implied contractual condition of sale.”
In his first public statement in over a year, Greg Mortenson told the AP the dismissal “upholds and confirms my belief and faith that our American legal and judicial system is honorable and fair.” Mortenson, who last month was removed from any financial oversight of the Central Asia Institute after it reached a $1 million agreement to settle claims he mismanaged Institute funds, added, “At times, facing so much was overwhelming and devastating, however, my attorneys always offered steadfast encouragement to stay positive and keep the high ground, even when subjected to false allegations, vicious name-calling and slander.”