LOS ANGELES, Jan. 25, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Jay Asher, author of the best-selling novel "Thirteen Reasons Why," filed a lawsuit against the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and the group's executive director, Lin Oliver, for making false and defamatory statements about him that unfairly damaged his reputation and career, his attorney said today.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleged that Ms. Oliver issued a statement to the Associated Press in February 2018 that falsely said the organization conducted an "investigation" and Mr. Asher was "found to have violated the SCBWI code of conduct in regard to harassment."
Those statements were completely false, the lawsuit said.
The SCBWI did not conduct an investigation, and Mr. Asher did not violate the SCBWI code of conduct, the lawsuit said.
Mr. Asher issued the following statement:
"The executive director of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators made reckless and false statements about me to the news media, greatly harming my family, career, and reputation. I do not condone harassment of any sort, and have spent my entire career standing up for its victims, so these statements were devastating. Today, I filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles to set the record straight. Ms. Oliver's statements were completely false and I look forward to proving that in court."
Patrick L. Fisher, attorney for Mr. Asher, said:
"SCBWI failed to conduct an investigation of any kind, and intentionally ignored evidence that would have shown Mr. Asher was completely innocent. Instead, SCBWI recklessly issued a false statement – in the heat of the 'Me-Too' movement – that unfairly damaged the reputation and career of one of the country's most successful young adult authors. We look forward to presenting these facts to a jury."
According to the lawsuit, anonymous emails were sent to Ms. Oliver in April 2017 accusing Mr. Asher of using SCBWI conferences to lure women into physical relationships and making unspecified threats to get them to stay quiet. These allegations were false. These women voluntarily entered into – and in some instances initiated – relationships with Mr. Asher. He did not offer to help these women professionally, and they were not his subordinates. There was no harassment by Mr. Asher at any point of these relationships.
Ms. Oliver discussed the allegations with Mr. Asher and said the emails read like "sour grapes," the lawsuit said. She said she felt the emails were an attempt to sully Mr. Asher's name just days after the series "Thirteen Reasons Why," based on his novel, debuted on Netflix, according to the lawsuit.
As a result, Ms. Oliver took no action for more than nine months, the lawsuit said. During that time, Mr. Asher voluntarily chose to stop attending SCBWI events rather than publicly fight false and anonymous comments at the height of his career. When Mr. Asher's membership in the group expired, Ms. Oliver suggested he renew his membership, which he did.
Separately, two women later contacted Ms. Oliver and said they participated in the anonymous emails. One woman knew firsthand that claims in the email were false, but Ms. Oliver made no further inquiry, according to the lawsuit. The second woman contradicted the anonymous emails, and Ms. Oliver again asked no questions.
Mr. Asher provided proof to Ms. Oliver that the author of the anonymous email had been harassing Mr. Asher for more than 10 years. He also offered to put her in contact with someone who could corroborate that point. Ms. Oliver took no action, and at no point contacted the person who could corroborate Mr. Asher's innocence.
Despite vast evidence to the contrary, and under scrutiny due to an article about harassment in publishing, Ms. Oliver issued a false and defamatory statement to the news media in February 2018. This caused Mr. Asher to suffer "injury to his personal, business, and professional reputation including suffering embarrassment, humiliation, severe emotional distress, shunning, anguish, fear, loss of employment…," the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
SOURCE Jay Asher