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Oprah Backs Away From James Frey
January 27, 2006

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

After James Frey, author of "A Million Little Pieces," was revealed to be a major memoir fabricator, Oprah Winfrey stuck with her endorsement of his bestseller, telling the public that the book's "message of redemption" still resonated with her.

Winfrey has since had a change of mind and from her television throne publicly apologized, explaining that she had been "duped."

By the time the dust settles, Frey may be writing a tome called "A Million Little Lawsuits." Could it be that Oprah's turnabout has something to do with the litigation flurry?

So far three cases have been filed against Frey and his publisher.

A Los Angeles woman filed a proposed class-action lawsuit in a state court based on "deceptive, fraudulent and false representations." A Chicago woman filed in Cook County, Ill., alleging consumer fraud and is also seeking class-action status. But a Seattle suit brought by two consumers seems to be the most creative of the three.

The suit was filed in federal court and seeks damages for the "lost time" that buyers of the book spent reading it. The plaintiffs also wish to be legally defined as a class action.

Doubleday, Frey's publisher, has promised to issue refunds to readers who had purchased directly from the publisher. It has also announced that future editions of Frey's memoir will include a brief author's note that will likely be some sort of disclaimer.

Based on the way courts have traditionally viewed the responsibility of publishers in a case like this, the likelihood of the plaintiffs prevailing against the publisher is not that great. The author's liability, on the other hand, is a different matter.

If the publisher follows through with its offer of refunds, there may not be sufficient monetary damages for the cases to proceed.

Meanwhile Frey has threatened The Smoking Gun, the Web site entity that exposed him, with a lawsuit "in the range of millions of dollars" if the site described the author as a liar or claimed that the events in his book were faked.

However, that lawsuit is not likely to happen...except maybe in one of Frey's books.

Reproduced with the permission of . All rights reserved

Copyright © 2006
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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