Penguin Group (USA) Inc. and Random House Inc. can’t be sued for false advertising by California buyers of two Lance Armstrong autobiographies who claimed they were cheated into purchasing fictional works after the bicycle racer admitted he lied about not using performance-enhancing drugs.
Chief District Judge Morrison England in Sacramento granted the publishers’ request to throw out all claims against them under a California statute that allows early dismissal of lawsuits that seek to undermine the constitutional right to free expression.
“The content of the Armstrong books is not an advertisement for a product; rather, the statements are Armstrong’s account, albeit partially untruthful, of his life and cycling career,” England said in his Sept. 9 ruling. “The content of the books is afforded full First Amendment protection.”
Two buyers of the books, “It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life” and “Every Second Counts” sued Armstrong and the publishers in January shortly after he had admitted in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that he used doping to win his record seven Tour de France victories. The plaintiffs said they wouldn’t have bought the books had they known the truth about Armstrong’s involvement with doping.
The two plaintiffs, a former communication adviser for Arnold Schwarzenegger and a chef, had sought to represent other buyers of the books in a class-action, or group, lawsuit.
The judge also threw out six of the claims against Armstrong. Four others claims against him are still waiting for a ruling on a request to dismiss them.
Armstrong’s lawyer, Zia Modabber, said in a telephone interview that for procedural reasons the negligent-misrepresentation claims and the fraud and deceit claims against his client had to be resolved by a motion to dismiss rather than a motion to strike under the California Anti-Slapp statute that allows early dismissal.
Kevin Roddy, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, declined to comment on the ruling.
The case is Stutzman v. Armstrong, 13-00116, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California (Sacramento.)
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