From The Guardian:
Alex Malarkey, the American boy who disavowed his bestselling account of meeting Jesus after an accident, has launched a lawsuit against the book’s Christian specialist publisher. While the publisher has “made millions of dollars”, the suit alleges, it has “paid Alex, a paralysed young man, nothing”.
The car accident that almost killed Malarkey happened in 2004 in Ohio, when he was six years old. Two months later he woke up from a coma to find himself paralysed from the neck down. He and his father, Kevin, a Christian therapist, wrote The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven together. According to Chicago’s Tyndale House, the firm that brought the book out in 2010, Malarkey wrote of “the angels that took him through the gates of heaven itself. Of the unearthly music that sounded just ‘terrible’ to a six-year-old. And, most amazing of all … Of meeting and talking to Jesus.”
But when he was 16, Malarkey revealed on his blog that he had made it all up. “I did not die. I did not go to heaven,” he said. “When I made the claims, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough.”
Tyndale House pulled the book, which had already sold a reported one million copies, saying in a statement that it was “saddened to learn [Alex is] now saying that he made up the story of dying and going to heaven”.
Malarkey, who is now 20, filed a lawsuit against the publisher earlier this week, claiming his father “concoct[ed] a story that, during the time Alex was in a coma, he had gone to Heaven, communicated with God the Father, Jesus, angels, and the devil, and then returned”, and alleging that while Tyndale House has “made millions of dollars off Alex’s identity and an alleged autobiographical story of his life, [it has] paid Alex, a paralysed young man, nothing”.
. . . .
“Despite the claims in Alex Malarkey’s lawsuit,” the [Tyndale House] statement continued, “Tyndale House paid all royalties that were due under the terms of our contract on his book … Tyndale took the book out of print in 2015 when Alex said that he had fabricated the entire story. Any books still available from online vendors are from third party sellers.”
Link to the rest at The Guardian
Here’s a link to the Complaint. (Corrected link now)
It appears that, while Alex was a minor, his father wrote the book and entered into the publishing contract. The book lists the authors as Alex’s father and Alex.
The publisher stopped selling the book in 2015 after Alex revealed that the events described in the book as taking place while he was in a coma never happened.
The lawsuit is claiming damages for violation of Alex’s Right of Publicity under the Illinois Right of Publicity statute claiming that the publisher’s use of Alex’s identity in the book and related materials violated Alex’s rights.
Additional counts include invasion of Alex’s privacy by giving publicity to his private life when there was no legitimate public interest because the book was false, placing Alex in a false light, intrusion on the seclusion of Alex and his private affairs, defamation, violation of Illinois’ statute prohibiting deceptive trade practices, and financial exploitation of a person with disabilities in violation of an Illinois statute.
PG says it will be interesting to see how this suit proceeds. While he’s not an expert on Illinois law, in the US, a parent is generally empowered to act on behalf of a minor child in legal matters, including entering into contracts on the child’s behalf, including contracts involving depictions of the child in books and elsewhere.
If Alex’s father was the sole author of the book, he may have had the right, as Alex’s father, to grant the publisher the right to publish a book describing Alex’s experiences or supposed experiences.
On the other hand, Alex is certainly a sympathetic plaintiff – paralyzed and living on government benefits.