A woman who admitted fabricating a best-selling memoir about surviving the Holocaust by living with wolves cannot be sued by her former publisher because the lawsuit was filed too late, a Massachusetts judge ruled.
Middlesex Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley on Tuesday dismissed the lawsuit filed by publisher Jane Daniel, saying she had missed a one-year statute of limitations.
Daniel sued Misha Defonseca, author of the 1997 book "Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years," and her ghostwriter Vera Lee to overturn a $32.4 million court judgment they had won against her in an earlier fight over profits. Daniel argued that because the story was false, Defonseca "perpetrated a hoax" on the trial judge and the jury.
Defonseca's book was translated into 18 languages and made into a feature film in France.
Feeley wrote in his ruling that the authenticity of the memoir was not an issue in the earlier court battle between Defonseca and Daniel.
"Defonseca's fraud, misrepresentations, and misconduct did not go to the heart of the case," he said.
Daniel's lawyer, Joseph Orlando, said he plans to appeal the ruling.
Daniel contends that the jury at the 2001 trial would not have issued a verdict against her if they had known that Defonseca made up the story.
"The poor, poor Holocaust survivor and the evil publisher who had victimized her - that's how it was characterized in the trial, and that's what's being allowed to stand," Daniel said Thursday.
Defonseca and Lee could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
Lee's attorney, Frank Frisoli, said he was not surprised by the judge's decision. "I did not see any merit to the action that was filed and apparently the court agreed," he said.
Defonseca, 71, of Dudley, acknowledged in February that the stories of her childhood living with wolves to escape the Nazis, killing a German soldier in self-defense, and walking 3,000 miles in search of her parents were all false. She also admitted that she isn't Jewish.
In 2001, a Middlesex District Court jury found that Daniel had failed to promote the book as promised and had hidden profits. The jury awarded Defonseca $7.5 million and Lee $3.3 million. Those amounts were later tripled by a judge who found Daniel and her small publishing company, Mt. Ivy Press, had misled both women and tried to claim royalties herself by rewriting the book.
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