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Duped Readers of Lance Armstrong File Suit

Two Californians have filed a class action suit against Lance Armstrong and his publishers, Penguin and Random House, demanding refunds and other unspecified compensation for their purchases of Armstrong’s inspirational — and, as it turns out, fictional — autobiographies, It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life (2000) and sequel Every Second Counts (2003):

Political consultant Rob Stutzman and chef Jonathan Wheeler would not have spent money on the titles, according to their submission, had they known “the true facts concerning Armstrong’s misconduct and his admitted involvement in a sports doping scandal that has led to his recent and ignominious public exposure”.

In both books, Armstrong is emphatic that the drug charges against him are false.

“Our team had ‘zero tolerance’ for any form of doping,” runs one passage in Every Second Counts. “It sounded like the usual cliched statement, but we meant it. We were absolutely innocent.”

(Apropos of absolutely nothing, Stutzman was once Arnold Schwarzenegger’s chief of staff.)

I get the outrage, but a lawsuit? Really? In Australia, a library reshelved Armstrong’s memoirs in the fiction section, to the amusement and approval of the locals. That seems, shall we say, a proportional response. The Americans’ resort to a lawsuit seems to justify the prejudice many hold abroad — that Americans are reflexively litigious — and also, much like the chorus of affronted indignation over Beyonce’s lip-synching at the inauguration (honestly, who cares?!) suggests a strain of rather grim self-righteousness. 

That dubious quality pushes this story perilously close to Onion territory:

In their legal submission, the plaintiffs say they suffered “monetary injury” and should be compensated.

“Although Stutzman does not buy or read many books, he found Armstrong’s book incredibly compelling and recommended the book to several friends,” it reads.

Armstrong should certainly not have the right to profit from his lies, and it would be good to see him compelled to turn over the proceeds of his book sales to a charity. And as the BBC article points out, there are parties out there making large claims that appear to be justified: 

  • The Sunday Times, which was forced into an out-of-court settlement in 2004 after Armstrong sued over articles questioning his integrity, is seeking around $1.5m (£945,000)

  • Dallas-based SCA Promotions, is looking to recover $12.5m (£7.8m) in bonus payments made to Armstrong for his Tour de France wins
  • The International Cycling Union wants back $4m (£2.5m) in prize money

I feel for the two American litigants, but come on. I don’t mean to diminish the pain of discovering your idol is a sham. That’s a difficult thing for anyone to grapple with. But the presumption that the restitution of $24.95 is going to mitigate that pain to any reasonable extent strikes me as weirdly naive. You?

  1. Israel P.

    There would be no end to it.

  2. genferei
    Judith Levy, Ed. The Americans’ resort to a lawsuit seems to justify the prejudice many hold abroad — that Americans are reflexively litigious 

    Do you think this prejudice is mistaken?

    Judith Levy, Ed. Armstrong should certainly not have the right to profit from his lies, and it would be good to see him compelled to turn over the proceeds of his book sales to a charity.

    I don’t think “rights” come into it. There is, thank goodness, no general legal duty of honesty. As such, I would think it terribly dangerous to start confiscating the property of people we don’t like (any more).

  3. John Hanson

    Sounds like rent seeking attorney’s.  Turn into class action, and make a few million in fees, while people who bought the books get a coupon good for 50% off next book purchase from some store.   Armstrong himself will be wiped out by legal fees, let alone any judgements, so likelyhood of getting money from him will be small, so will have to go after publishers, book stores etc with claim they are responsible for content of what they sell, disaster if anyone buys it, but what the heck, payoff is good enough to give it the old try.   Wow, am I ever a cynic!

  4. Derek Simmons

    They are more American than Lance. When will we see their story: “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LAWSUIT”?

  5. Mothership_Greg

    Did you say “Californians”?  And the sun still rises in the east.

  6. Leslie Watkins

    caveat emptor

  7. genferei
    Leslie Watkins: caveat emptor · 0 minutes ago

    Indeed. It’s well past time to revisit MacPherson v Buick Motor Co.

  8. Giantkiller

    Lawsuit?  Nonsense.  Lance owes no discernible duty to the plaintiffs.  Typical stupidity – the lawyers involved should be sanctioned.

  9. Donald Todd

    Somebody smells money to be made.  Are any of these people lawyers or related to lawyers?  I wonder if lawyers filing bad lawsuits are subject to penalties?

  10. Troy Senik, Ed.
    C

    Let none of us lose sight of the real issue here: a verdict unfavorable to Lance could provide precedent for suing the authors of books with “composite girlfriends.” Just saying.

  11. Lavaux
    Giantkiller: Lawsuit?  Nonsense.  Lance owes no discernible duty to the plaintiffs.  Typical stupidity – the lawyers involved should be sanctioned. · 4 hours ago

    I concur, although I would suggest a sterner sanction for the lawyers involved. Caning, perhaps. 10 strokes at least to retain license to practice, preferably more, physical condition permitting.

  12. Donald Todd

    whatever happened to Caveat Emptor?

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