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Firm named in suit filed over controversial Holocaust book
Sheri Qualters / Staff reporter
April 15, 2008BOSTON — A Massachusetts publisher has filed a new lawsuit in Middlesex Superior Court to fight a $33 million judgment that stemmed from a business dispute about a book written by a woman who claimed wolves befriended her during the Holocaust.
Jane Daniel of Gloucester, Mass. and her company Mt. Ivy Press sued the writer Monique De Wael, who is also known as Misha Defonseca and her ghostwriter Vera Lee. Defonseca and Lee are both Massachusetts residents.
Daniel also named the Boston law firm Edward Angell Palmer & Dodge on the lawsuit. Mt. Ivy Press v. DeWael, No. MICV2008-01432 (Middlesex Co., Mass., Super. Ct.)
In February, Defonseca's public statements that she fabricated some of the best-selling book led to widespread publicity. Daniel is asking the court to set aside judgment for the fraud and relief from the prior judgment.
Lee initially sued Daniel, Mt. Ivy Press and Defonseca for breach of contract, fraud and other claims and Daniel countersued. Lee v. Mt. Ivy Press, No. MICV1998-02456 (Middlesex Co., Mass., Super. Ct.).
In August 2001, a jury found that Mt. Ivy Press has breached its publishing agreement with Lee and Defonseca and had violated Massachusetts consumer protection laws in its business dealings with them.
The jury awarded damages of about $11 million to the plaintiffs, which the trial court later tripled to $33 million for the consumer protection violations. The court also gave Defonseca the dramatic, movie, television and radio rights.
Daniel appealed, and the Appeals Court of Massachusetts upheld the lower court's ruling and denied Daniel's motion for a new trial. Vera Lee v. Mt. Ivy Press, No. 2003-P-1496 (Mass. App. Ct.).
Lee's attorney Frank J. Frisoli Jr. of Frisoli & Frisoli in Cambridge, Mass. said Daniel pocketed the revenue from the book and didn't pay Defonseca or Lee.
"The judgment is because she stole money she cheated them out of the revenue from the work," Frisoli said.
Frisoli also said some of the statements in the new complaint are inconsistent with the facts disclosed at the trial.
"This issue was already litigated," Frisoli said. "This complaint has no merit."
Daniel's lawyer Joseph M. Orlando of Orlando & Associates in Gloucester, Mass. said the judgment awarded to Defonseca and Lee was "based on perjured testimony which resulted in a fraud on the court." Orlando also said that Defonseca and Lee signed contracts with Mt. Ivy Press declaring that Defonseca's story was truthful and accurate when it was not.
"That fact casts a shadow over every finding by the jury and the court, including those in regards to finances," Orlando said. "Once the judgment is vacated, auditors will have the opportunity to review all the financial issues to determine the truth."
In a statement, Edward Angell said it was named in the current and prior case only because its predecessor firm held funds in dispute among its former clients, Mt. Ivy Press, Defonseca and Lee. "Mt. Ivy Press is now seeking a declaration that it is entitled to client funds that the firm was directed in the earlier case to pay to Ms. Defonseca and Ms. Lee."