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Jury Rules Against Southland Publisher

The $2.8-million judgment stems from breach-of-contract suit over a book printed by Michael Viner.

August 21, 2003|David Rosenzweig | Times Staff Writer

A federal court jury awarded $2.8 million in damages Wednesday against a Beverly Hills book publisher in a breach-of-contract lawsuit stemming from the publication of several mystery anthologies built around sports.

After a six-day trial, a U.S. District Court jury in Los Angeles found in favor of New York bookstore owner Otto Penzler and ordered local publisher Michael Viner and his New Millennium Enterprises to pay the $2.8-million award, which includes $300,000 in punitive damages.

The case pitted Viner and his firm against Penzler, who helped sign up several big names for the anthologies, including popular mystery writer David Baldacci.

Viner, who has been involved in numerous lawsuits over the years, sued Penzler last year, alleging breach of contract and other improprieties. Penzler filed a countersuit with similar claims.

But the jury dismissed Viner's claims.

"This is a complete vindication for Otto Penzler," said his lawyer, Nicholas Gravante Jr. of New York. "The jury rejected every one of New Millennium's claims."

Ed Riley, house counsel for New Millennium, said the company was considering filing an appeal.

Part of Penzler's countersuit involved Viner's attempt to put Baldacci's name in big block letters on the cover of one anthology, titled "The Mighty Johns." Baldacci, who had been signed by Penzler to write a short story for the work, sued New Millennium to stop publication, claiming that the cover would trick readers into believing that he had come out with a new novel.

Eventually, Viner and Baldacci agreed on a cover and the football anthology was published.

Penzler claimed he was denied an opportunity to view the book before it was sent to the printers and that his good name was damaged.

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