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You Lied in Your Autobiography: So We're Suing


From the American Bar Journal comes the news that a class action suit has been launched against Lance Armstrong. The class is apparently composed of purchasers of his autobiography, It's Not About My Bike: My Journey Back To Life. The class members are apparently seeking refunds and "litigation costs," though it's hard to know what costs there are since lawyers are doubtless operating on a contingent basis.

What's the tort here: will we see the new tort of "false self-aggrandizing"? Of "lying in a book?" Of "selling fiction as fact?" True, if I market myself as a surgeon and you hire me to remove your appendix, you can sue me if it turns out that I'm a quack and the surgery goes amiss. But there a patient was cut into and the result was adverse. Here there was no reliance cost here except for the cost of purchase of an allegedly lying book.

Can you imagine the number of class action suits against disgraced or retired politicians, by purchasers of their memoirs or political puff pieces, that might follow if this class action survives summary judgment?


I'm sure the plaintiffs would attempt to couch it as a straightforward case of fraud. How many untruths does it take to make it fraud to call it an autobiography? The issue has interesting interplay with the 1A right to tell lies about oneself, recognized in US v. Alvarez.

But the fact that its being brought as a class action raises other problems of adequacy, typicality and predominance too. Who bought in reliance on certain particular facts?

Obama's autobiography features invented or composite people. Does that count?

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.