…a federal court jury began hearing testimony Monday in a defamation suit brought by two law professors against West Publishing.
Professors David Rudovsky of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Leonard Sosnov of Widener School of Law claim that West harmed their reputations when it falsely identified them as the authors of a poorly researched treatise update.
According to the complaint, the professors “were unable to reach agreement on the financial terms” for creating either a new edition of their treatise or an updated pocket part. And, “in December 2008, without providing any notice to the Plaintiffs,” West published a pocket part to the treatise with the professors listed as authors (and “in smaller print, also identified ‘The Publisher’s Staff’ as an author”).
Now at trial, “Rudovsky testified Monday that he was “shocked” when he learned that West went forward in December 2008 and published a pocket part that still carried his and Sosnov’s names as authors — even though they had done no work and received no pay.”
According to an ABA Journal article, West’s lawyer argued that, “the two profs weren’t damaged by the publication of the initial 2008 pocket part, because they can’t prove either that their reputation was harmed or that they suffered financially. However, the profs’ attorney, . . . argued that damage to their professional reputation is assumed and doesn’t need to be proven, because this is a defamation per se situation, and Senior U.S. District Judge John Fullam agreed.”
U.S. District Judge John P. Fullam issued a two-page order that provides more detail on the Judge’s take on the law of defamation per se. It also states:
“It is for the jury to determine whether the intended audience of the pocket part would conclude that plaintiffs authored an inaccurate and out-of-date supplement to the treatise. If they so conclude, then I hold this would tend to damage the plaintiffs as legal authors and authorities on Pennsylvania criminal law and constitute defamation per se.”
The trial continues. Get your popcorn ready, this should be interesting.
Earlier posts on the case available here: