Got this off yesterday’s Publisher’s Lunch:
Legal filings have been piling up in the case seeking class action status against Greg Mortenson, his co-author, publisher Penguin and the charity that Morteson established. The case for dismissal as argued by Mortenson’s attorneys does not address the substance of the allegations–that his story is fraudulent–but rather focuses on numerous issues of legal standing.
They note that they plaintiffs have amended and refiled their claims five times now, continuing to look for different basis on which to sue. The current complaint has 11 causes of action; “earlier versions…including different plaintiffs, were 8, 9, 10 and 13 pages long with 6 causes of action,” but, the lawyers argue, the “putative injury” has not changed. “Plaintiffs claim they bought Three CUps of Tea and/or Stones Into schools and now believe some of the information in the books is inaccurate.”
Mortenson’s attorneys says that “if the plaintiffs disagree with the books’ contents,” they can discuss it in almost any forum they like, “but their alleged injury is not the proper subject of a lawsuit.” He claims to be acting on behalf of all authors: “Plaintiffs should not be allowed to create a world where authors are exposed to the debilitating expense of class action litigation just because someone believes a book contains inaccuracies, whether one or many, whether material or not.” The danger, as they see it, is that “anyone who writes a memoir, or writes about a historic event, or topics of import of the day would be subject to these suits” and such actions “would stifle, not promote, the free exchange of ideas.” Legally, they argue that the plaintiffs haven’t stated a “cognizable injury.”
The plaintiffs reply that “Mortenson has simply chosen to ignore the law and the multi-district litigation lawsuit In re A Million Little Pieces in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, where the district court certified a nearly identical class action.”
They add, “It is difficult to comprehend the argument being raised by Mortenson. He seems to be arguing that the general laws of our nation do not pertain to him and that he can commit fraud in selling a book and advertising for charitable contributions and, in the same breath, argue that the purchase price of the book is not damage to the buyer because the buyer read the book.” They further argue, “Mortenson takes the strange position that plaintiffs were not injured from what they read, but were only injured after they realized they had been defrauded. Query: Isn’t that exactly the situation in every fraud case? Why would any plaintiff, knowing he was being defrauded, allow the defendant to defraud him?”