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Two Law Profs Win 5.2 Million Verdict in Defamation Case Against West

December 27, 2010

Two authors of the supplementary “pocket part” to a Pennsylvania criminal procedure text won 5.2 million dollars after West Publishing falsely  listed them as the authors of a new “sham” version in 2008, so shoddy that the professors argued that damage to their professional reputation must be presumed, that this was a case of “per se” defamation. 

After a four-day trial, a federal district court jury  in Philadelphia awarded professors David Rudovsky of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Loenard Sosnov of Widener Law School, compensatory damages of $80,000 each and punitive damages of $2.5 million dollars each.

The professors alleged that they had added almost 150 cases, including commentary, to their yearly supplement to their long-published treatise on Pennsylvania Criminal Procedure, for close to two decades.   The treatise earned approximately $17,000 a year and the authors split a $10,000 fee for the annual pocket part.

After a dispute over this fee,   West’s response was to publish a “pocket part” supplement listing the professors’ names as the authors with only three new cases added and no mention of cases reversed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  The evidence showed that West assigned the update to a graduate one year out of law school and gave her one week to do the work without review of her research. 

When deciding how much to award in punitive damages, the jury was asked to consider that West’s parent company, Thomson Reuters, has a net worth of more than $11 billion,  and an annual operating profit of more than 1.6 billion.  This wealth was taken into account to determine the size of the award needed to punish West and deter it from acting in the same way in the future.′…12/26/2010

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