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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jimmy Carter Suit Over – For Now

I wrote about the suit against Jimmy Carter a few weeks ago. A group sued Simon & Schuster and the former president regarding Carter’s 2006 book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. They sued for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, negligent misrepresentation , intentional misrepresentation and consumer protection act violations, saying the book was falsely advertised as nonfiction. They claimed they were misled into buying the book and wanted their money back.

While this wasn’t the first consumer protection case against an author (thanks, James Frey), it was the first time the argument was made that the laws could be utilized on behalf of readers who disagreed with a book’s contents and the way it was advertised.

I warned that disaster would fall if Simon & Schuster paid these folks to go away. I said the floodgates would open. For nonfiction, the danger was that one poorly researched fact, one opinion not labeled as such, one misstatement, and every author and publisher of nonfiction will be at risk. I was also concerned that fiction authors would be at risk. What would happen if they advertised a book as “exciting” but a reader finds it boring?

Well, you’ll be glad to hear that, at least this time, the danger has passed. The plaintiffs withdrew their suit and got no money. While Simon & Schuster proclaimed victory, the plaintiffs said they plan to refile in NY state court.

This is still a suit to watch closely if it’s refilled. I hope Simon & Schuster continues to stick to its guns and fight this lawsuit. Stay tuned.

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