BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A Bloomington-based publishing company has been ordered to pay nearly $500,000 in damages over a book it printed for a Kansas man.
A judge in Wichita, Kan., this month ruled that the self-publishing company AuthorHouse must pay $240,000 in punitive damages to Gary Brock's ex-wife and two family members. That is in addition to the $230,000 awarded by a jury in May after it found that the book, Paperback Poison: The Romance Writer and the Hit Man, libeled Rebecca Brandewyne.
AuthorHouse maintains that it acted properly.
The book alleges Brandewyne was a child abuser, drug abuser, plagiarizer and felon, who had adulterous affairs with both men and women and hired a hit man to kill Brock, Judge Jeff Goering wrote in his ruling. The book also described two of her family members as racist, the ruling said.
AuthorHouse was responsible for the damages because Brock told the company he did not want to spend money on printing the book only to have it canceled because of its content, as other publishers had done, the ruling said.
"While an online publisher cannot be expected to read every book from every customer, given Brock's description of his own book, a responsible publisher would make some effort to screen the content of the book at issue in this case before accepting the book for publication," Goering wrote.
AuthorHouse argued it merely printed the book after Brock signed a contract taking full responsibility for the contents. In addition, the company said, only three copies of the book were sold.
"In this situation, we acted promptly and conscientiously once we discovered the potential problems, and do not believe our actions justified the verdict nor the damages awarded," AuthorHouse CEO Bryan Smith said in a statement.
The company did not said whether it would appeal.
Brandewyne, a romance writer, was satisfied with the judge's ruling, said her attorney, Jay Fowler.
"Reputation is very important to anyone in business," Fowler said. "Both the jury and the judge understood that in ruling for Ms. Brandewyne."