Wednesday, December 22, 2010

West Publishing Stung with $5M Damages to 2 Authors

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Dec. 21 that a jury in U.S. District Court awarded David Rudovsky and Leonard N. Sosnov each $2.5 million as punitive damages in a suit claiming that West defamed them. West listed the professors as authors of the 2008 supplement to the treatise on Pennsylvania criminal procedure after both had refused to be associated with the update because it contained virtually no new material! The Inquirer identifies Rudovsky as a "senior fellow" at Penn and a prominent civil liberties and civil rights attorney. Professor Sosnov teaches at Widener. From the Inquirer:

In 1991, West published their Pennsylvania Criminal Procedure: Law, Commentary and Forms. A second edition was published in 2001, and the men provided annual updates tracking changes in criminal court procedures.

But in 2008, West wanted to pay them only $2,500 each, so the two men ceased work on the addendum. Nevertheless, West published an update bearing Rudovsky and Sosnov's names on the title page.

The professors sued, contending that an inferior product - only three new cases were cited - damaged their professional reputations.

West quickly pulled the update, but not fast enough, it turned out.

In an interview Monday, Rudovsky and Sosnov's attorney, Richard L. Bazelon of Bazelon Less & Feldman, said testimony showed "what West had published . . . really was a sham," and done deliberately.

Bazelon said he expected West to appeal both the punitive award and the verdict. Along with the punitive damages, the jury Thursday awarded each man $90,000 in actual damages.
I wonder how much of the brou-ha-ha began with the paltry payment offered in 2008? But I certainly wish more West authors would stand up to them when they believed there were not enough changes to warrant a supplement! We librarians certainly know we are being fed new editions and supplements that are mostly puff. The poor law students are being forced to buy new editions of textbooks, too, as their professors are persuaded to select a newer edition, when there is not a legitimate need for one. And of course, with the rise of e-textbooks that have no resale value, the students are screwed in terms of ever buying a used book. I don't know if I believe the claims that the books will cost less. There only seems to be one party that ever benefits in these new developments, and it's not the consumer. Sadly, I suppose, I can't say the publishers and booksellers seem to be thriving either, in most cases. It just galls me when they use these tricks.

No comments: