Judge Slashes $4.78M Off Verdict Against West Publishing - In House
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Judge Slashes $4.78M Off Verdict Against West Publishing

A federal court judge has sharply reduced a $5-million punitive damage award given to two law school professors by a jury that concluded they were defamed by West Publishing Corp., a legal-publishing firm.

U.S. District Court Judge John P. Fullam stated that $2.5 million each exceeded the actual damage to the lawyers' reputations in a decision this week.

Fullam sliced the punitive award for each man to $110,000, which with $90,000 in compensatory damages means each would get $200,000, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

"The jury may have been too much influenced by the net worth" of the company and by West's conduct during the trial, Fullam wrote, "which seemed to show that the defendants have learned nothing from their experience."

The facts "are not very much in dispute" and favor professors David Rudovsky and Leonard Sosnov, Judge Fullam wrote.

West named Rudovsky and Sosnov as the authors of a 2008 addendum to a treatise on criminal procedures they had originally written. The addendum contained virtually no new content, and the professors had nothing to do with its compilation, the Inquirer reports. They testified that its inadequate content hurt their reputations.

Rudovsky is a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and a prominent civil liberties and civil rights lawyer. Sosnov teaches at Widener Law School.

They wrote the original 1991 book published by West, Pennsylvania Criminal Procedure: Law, Commentary, and Forms, the Inquirer reports. A second edition was published in 2001, and the men had provided annual updates tracking changes in criminal court procedures.

A falling-out occurred in 2008 when West wanted to pay them only $2,500 each, so the men ceased work on the addendum. Nevertheless, West published an update bearing Rudovsky's and Sosnov's names on the title page.

The lengthy volume on criminal procedure is typically purchased by law libraries, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and law schools.

NOTE: West Publishing is owned by Thomson Reuters, which also owns FindLaw.

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