FORT WORTH (CN) - The man who received the first successful face transplant in the United States says a British tabloid harassed him just hours after his surgery and falsely claims to have bought exclusive rights to his story, for 1 British pound. He seeks a restraining order, and punitive damages from Barcroft Media.
Dallas Wiens "came in direct contact with a high voltage power line, burning his face to the skull," he says in his complaint in Tarrant County Court.
He sued Barcroft Media, which "publishes sensational tabloid articles with titles such as 'I Starved Myself For Model Look,' 'World's Oldest Doctor' and 'Stripper Mum and Daughter.'"
Barcroft tried to contact Wiens several times before his surgery, and finally got through to him with a bogus story about doing a "heartwarming human interest story about plaintiff in the December or holiday issue of a British women's magazine," Wiens says.
Wiens says the tabloid, which has an office in New York City, offered to pay him $1,500 and said it would give him copies of all photographs, footage and interview material for his review before publishing.
Wiens, who lost his eyes in the accident, says Barcroft sent him a 1-page contract that contained those terms and he signed it. His grandfather had to read the contract to him. Wiens says it's the only document he signed.
But during the agreed-upon interview, Barcroft's representative "presented numerous additional contracts and repeatedly hounded plaintiff to sign them," he says.
Wiens had the surgery in March, a 16-hour procedure that involved 32 surgeons. It was the second such surgery attempted in the world.
"Shockingly, within hours of the initial press conference announcing the ground-breaking surgery, defendant's agents were calling and texting plaintiff's personal cell phone," Wiens says.
Barcroft called him and his family several times a day, ignoring Wien's attorney's pleas to stop, and demanded access to him while he was in the hospital, Wiens says.
He says Barcroft "used every tactic imaginable" to get to him, and even produced a document that it claimed was an exclusive contract to publish his story in exchange for 1 pound - less than $2.
Wiens says that document "was fabricated, manufactured and/or otherwise procured by fraud. It is simply another desperate attempt by defendant to exploit plaintiff and his family for its own financial gain."
The tabloid also harassed the hospital staff, Wiens says, "demanding access to plaintiff while he is in the hospital so that defendant can publish his story."
He says Barcroft "also contacted plaintiff's grandmother and falsely represented that plaintiff had agreed to give defendant access, but she needed to sign a release on his behalf so that the hospital and medical staff would grant defendant full access to plaintiff and his medical records at the hospital. ...
"Defendant simply will not stop harassing and bothering plaintiff and his family. Defendant is determined to exploit plaintiff for its own financial gain, regardless of the cost to plaintiff. Defendant's behavior is detrimental to plaintiff's treatment, recovery and safety," he says.
He adds: "Of significant note, the public relations firm and attorneys working for plaintiff are doing so on a pro bono basis so that all proceeds will benefit plaintiff and his family, unlike defendant, who is attempting to capitalize and exploit plaintiff's personal tragedy for its own commercial gain."
Wiens want the court to declare that whatever contract Barcroft purports to have is void, an injunction barring Barcroft from harassing him or his family, and punitive damages for fraud, privacy invasion, misappropriation of his name, and harassment.
He is represented by Lisa Jamieson with Shannon, Gracey, Ratliff & Miller of Fort Worth.