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`Freakonomics' Co-Author Is Sued

April 12, 2006|From Bloomberg News

"Freakonomics" co-author Steven Levitt and HarperCollins Publishers Inc. were sued for defamation by former Yale Law School researcher John Lott, whose work Levitt discusses in the bestselling book.

Lott said in a federal lawsuit filed Monday in Chicago that Levitt, a University of Chicago economist, defamed him when he wrote that other scholars had been unable to replicate Lott's research linking lower crime rates with the right to carry guns. The passage amounts to an allegation that Lott falsified his results, according to the lawsuit.

The allegation "damages Lott's reputation in the eyes of the academic community in which he works, and in the minds of the hundreds of thousands of academics, college students, graduate students and members of the general public who read 'Freakonomics,' " Lott said in the lawsuit.

Lott's suit asks for a halt in sales, a retraction in the next printing of the book and unspecified damages from Levitt and HarperCollins. Stephen Dubner, who co-wrote the book, wasn't named as a defendant.

Representatives of Levitt and New York-based HarperCollins, owned by News Corp., didn't immediately comment.

"Freakonomics" has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 51 weeks and, according to the lawsuit, has sold more than 1 million copies.

Recently, Lott was a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a public-policy research group in Washington.

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