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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Court Shuts Book on Case Against ‘Tea’ Author

(CN) - The 9th Circuit refused to revive a lawsuit accusing humanitarian and author Greg Mortenson of fabricating key parts of his memoirs "Three Cups of Tea" and "Stones Into Schools" to boost sales.

Mortenson founded the Central Asia Institute, a nonprofit that provides community-based education and literacy programs for girls in remote regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In his books "Three Cups of Tea" and "Stones Into Schools," he claims to have been inspired to build more than 50 schools in the two countries after stumbling into a poor village in Pakistan following a failed attempt to summit K2.

But that account drew skepticism from "Into Thin Air" author Jon Krakauer, who told the CBS news program "60 Minutes" that he believed Mortenson fabricated key parts of the story.

In May 2011, two Montana legislators sued Mortenson and his charity, claiming the books contain "numerous fabrications" meant "to entice people to buy his two books, pay him speaking fees and donate to CAI."

By the fourth amended complaint, both legislators had been replaced as plaintiffs by George and Susie Pfau and Dan Donovan, who joined plaintiff Deborah Netter from a separate class action against Mortenson, co-author David Relin and publisher Penguin Group USA.

U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon dismissed the amended complaint based on its inadequate pleadings, and the 9th Circuit affirmed in an unpublished opinion Wednesday.

"Plaintiffs fail to allege that the purported misrepresentations caused their injuries," wrote the three-judge panel in Portland, Ore. "They also fail to specify with the requisite particularity defendants' individual roles in the alleged racketeering scheme to plead an enterprise theory, or to properly plead the predicate acts of mail or wire fraud."

Claims of fraud, deceit and breach of contract were similarly based on "conclusory statements and minimal factual allegations," the panel wrote.

Based on these "defects," the 9th Circuit tossed the remaining claims for unjust enrichment, an injunction, an accounting, class status, punitive damages and liability damages against Penguin.

The plaintiffs are not entitled to another shot at honing their arguments, the court added, because they "have already had multiple opportunities to amend."

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