A lawsuit has been filed against disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong and his book publishers, Penguin and Random House, alleging fraud and false advertising based on claims Armstrong made in his best-selling memoirs. The books were billed as non-fiction but after Armstrong came (somewhat) clean last week about the doping charges that have followed him for years, much of what he wrote was revealed to be false.
The two plaintiffs said they bought Armstrong’s books, “It’s Not About the Bike” and “Every Second Counts,” because they believed in Armstrong’s inspiring story about coming back to the Tour de France drug-free after winning a nearly fatal battle with testicular cancer. Unfortunately Armstrong’s story was too good to be true. Late week he admitted on Oprah Winfrey’s show that he had used banned, performance-enhancing drugs on his way to winning seven Tour de France titles.
Lawyers representing the two men in the class actions suit say that those who bought the books are entitled to financial restitution and may also be eligible to receive statutory and punitive damages. They allege that even though Armstrong passed numerous drug screenings, his publishers should have detected the deceptions in the books.
The suit is not dissimilar to a 2011 lawsuit filed against “Three Cups of Tea” co-author Greg Mortenson which accused him of fabricating a good deal of his “non-fiction” book about promoting education for girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The same law firm which won Mortenson’s case, based largely on a defense centered around the First Amendment, will also represent Penguin in the Armstrong suit.
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One concern for Armstrong and his publishers is that California has notoriously plaintiff-friendly consumer protection laws which could make it easier for the two men who filed the suit to have success.