WHEATON, Ill. (CN) – A quadriplegic man who emerged from a coma in 2004 claims Christian publisher Tyndale House published a fake near-death story about him going to heaven, which was concocted by his father after they survived a severe car accident.
Alex Malarkey, 19, claims in a lawsuit filed Monday in Dupage County, Ill., that Tyndale House Publishers has made millions of dollars from a book his father wrote that falsely claimed he died and went to heaven, where he spoke to Jesus and the devil.
Published in 2010, “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven,” a New York Times bestseller, sold over 1 million copies and spawned an audio CD, DVD documentary and a TV movie deal. But Malarkey, who depends solely on Social Security payments to get by, has not seen a dime of revenue, according to the complaint.
Malarkey, represented by attorneys Jonathan Remijas and David Gibbs III, was only 12 years old when the Carol Stream, Ill.-based publisher released the allegedly fake autobiography. He claims the publisher never confirmed with him whether the contents of the book were accurate.
“On November 14, 2004 Alex was permanently paralyzed as a quadriplegic in a car accident that was caused by the negligence of his father, Kevin Malarkey. The accident was so severe that an on-scene official requested that a coroner be called to the scene. As a result of the accident, Alex spent two months in a coma,” the lawsuit states.
According to the complaint, Malarkey’s father conjured up a story that his son “had gone to heaven, communicated with God the Father, Jesus, angels and the devil, and then returned.”
Malarkey alleges Tyndale and his now-deceased father inked a publishing deal to release the book in paperback and hardcover, listing the authors as Kevin & Alex Malarkey.
Despite earning enormous revenue from the book and a platinum award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association for selling over 1 million copies, Malarkey alleges Tyndale House has never paid him anything.
Tyndale also allegedly refuses to disassociate him from the publication, even though he describes it as “one of the most deceptive books ever.”
According to Malarkey, Tyndale publicly announced in January 2015 it was taking “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven” out of print after he penned an open letter to the company stating that “the alleged journey to heaven was fictional.”
Malarkey alleges Tyndale failed to have the book contract approved by an Illinois court despite having “every opportunity to do so.”
The company refuses to provide him with documents about sales of the autobiography or details of the original publishing contract unless Malarkey “agrees that the publishing agreement is in effect and binding,” according to the lawsuit. Malarkey says he won’t agree the contract is in effect because he has never seen the agreement his father made with Tyndale.
Malarkey currently lives in Huntsville, Ohio, where he survives off of Social Security checks and support from his mother. According to the lawsuit, he and his mother are on the verge of homelessness.
“Despite the fact that Tyndale House has made millions of dollars off Alex’s identity and an alleged autobiographical story of his life, Tyndale House paid Alex, a paralyzed young man, nothing,” the complaint states.
The publisher did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment.
Malarkey sued Tyndale for appropriation of likeness, exploitation of a person with a disability and defamation for describing him as a “dynamic witness for Christ” in a book allegedly based on lies.
His attorneys also did not respond to a request for comment.