After oral arguments on Thursday, New York State Supreme Court Judge Barry Ostrager rejected Simon & Schuster’s motion to dismiss Milo Yiannopoulos’ $10 million lawsuit against the publisher for allegedly canceling the contract for his book Dangerous in bad faith.
The ruling means that the case will now proceed to the discovery phase, barring a settlement. In his October 5 order, Ostrager gave S&S attorneys 20 days to answer the claims in Milo’s Amended Complaint, and scheduled a compliance conference for November 14.
The ruling comes after Simon & Schuster attorneys in July called the breach of contract suit a “meritless publicity stunt,” and asked the court to dismiss it. In court filings, S&S argued that its February 22 termination notice (which reverted rights to Yiannopoulos and allowed him to keep the initial $80,000 advance) constituted “full satisfaction” of S&S’s obligations under the original contract.
But, as lawyers suggested to PW shortly after the suit was first filed, Yiannnopolous’s complaint turned out to be strong enough to avoid immediate dismissal, setting up a viable "fact dispute" over whether S&S terminated the contract for Dangerous in bad faith.
“It seems to me that whether the termination was legal or not is a question that is open until a court answers it," Cleveland State University law professor Christopher Sagers explained to PW.
In the suit, filed on July 7, Yiannopoulos claims that S&S illegally terminated the contract using the “obviously false pretext” that the manuscript was unacceptable only after his controversial comments on pedophilia got him disinvited from CPAC and ousted from Breitbart News. Yiannopoulos is seeking $10 million in damages.
S&S attorneys counter that the contract “unambiguously” grants the publisher the right to terminate the contract for “multiple and subjective reasons,” including if in its “sole good judgment” the book “is not acceptable to it.”
In a statement Thursday, S&S stressed that the ruling pertains only to “a preliminary procedural motion” and does not address the merits of Yiannopoulos’ claims. “As we proceed to discovery," the statement reads, "we remain confident that we will ultimately prevail in this matter.”
In a comment posted to social media, Yiannopoluos ’s attorney, Stephen B. Meister, hinted at just how messy the litigation could get.
“Simon & Schuster’s whole strategy in defending against our lawsuit was to stop it before it ever started,” Meister stated. “They recognize that discovery will reveal their pretextual bad faith cancellation of Dangerous through emails, memos, and texts.”
After a fairly strong start, in which the self-published Dangerous hit #1 on the PW nonfiction bestseller list, and #2 on the New York Times list, sales have slowed. According to NPD BookScan, Dangerous has sold around 71,000 copies to date.