Dooce blogger Heather Armstrong Settles Lawsuit with Kensington Publishing Group
I know, I know. My regular readers must wonder why I'm all of a sudden so interested in the fate of Dooce blogger Heather Armstrong. And why I'm interrupting my interesting series of posts featuring stilettos to talk about boring legal stuff.
But this is anything but a boring story; it is a rather sad tale with an unexpected twist.
And the fact is that since I wrote about the Dooce story yesterday, my blog has been completely innundated with Dooce readers who want to find out what Heather didn't write on her own blog; that is, why she was sued and why she had to settle.
I'm not jealous of her legal predicaments, but I am a little bit jealous about all her readers. Wow! This was like a Tsunami coming by.
So, I guess, since I've managed to find out the story I should tell all the Dooce readers what Heather didn't disclose in her own blog.
A few years back, Heather B. Armstrong got fired because of her blog, which, of course, helped her blog soare to the stratosphere and everyone started reading it. Same story as when Pfizer went to Court to ask for sanction because I had written "The Whistleblower."
Anyway, Heather's big audience made her a great candidate for one of those blogger book deals I have written about (most recently Petite Anglaise), and back in November 2005, according to the lawsuit, Heather agreed orally to a two book deal with Kensington's Rebel Base Books line. I guess that simply means she agreed to start negotiating, which, of course, is not how this is portrayed in the complaint.
They negotiated for months, until they had a final agreement in May 2006. The complaint alleges everyone was happy and they has sorted everything out. But Heather didn't want to sign that final agreement.
I guess she thought, like anyone would, that as long as she didn't sign the dotted line, she was fine, and could back out. Of course, the publisher claims they had started doing a lot of work and pre-marketing, and so, lost money.
In fact, they write, "As a result of the breach of contract by Armstrong, Kensington will suffer irreparable harm."
And here comes the kicker . . . what made Kensington so mad? They contend that Heather went to a different publisher with her book.
Heather has announced a settlement on Dooce, "officially ending what has been the most traumatic, agonizing, demoralizing experience of my life."
In case you wonder about the outcome, she adds: "I have no faith in our legal system, one that guarantees victory only for the party who can afford to pay for it, one that would allow a large company to bully a private citizen because it knows that she has no money with which to defend herself. I am angry and bitter and feeling all sorts of unbecoming emotions. More than that, though, I am afraid that these people are watching everything I say here, ready to pounce on a single word, twist it, manipulate it, and then sue me again."
And in this lies a good lesson. An oral contract is a valid contract, and the fact that someone backs out before signing the dotted line can be expensive, indeed. Which makes any negotiation pretty dangerous. I hope Petite Anglaise doesn't make the same mistake.
Here are the comments by a third party lawyer on this case: "Oral negotiations between two parties in order to come to an agreement on specific terms of a contract occur. The representative of one of the parties assures the representative of the other that the contract is fine, it meets all expectations, and it will be signed. All of this is memorialized in writing.
Then, the rep of one of the parties informs the other party that they intend to breach the contract for which they have negotiated. Money has been spent in anticipation of this contract (also known as detrimental reliance). The person breaching the oral contract cannot provide any reasonable explanation for the breach other than: 1) the editor left; and 2) they did not receive enough “support” from the company and it was “nerve-wracking.”
This lawyer claims this is all cause for action.
But the flip side is also that it is rather shocking to see a rich publisher going after an author this way . . . and who knows who was right?
After all, the publisher had a few more lawyers than Heather, a ton more money, and in the end the one with the biggest pockets is likely to win any legal fight in the U.S.
If you want to view the entire complaint, click trainwrecks.net.