Texan seeks legal help to secure $11.6 million in 'Fifty Shades' settlement

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 17, 2016 7:31 PM

By Marice Richter

FORT WORTH, Texas (Reuters) - Another chapter is set to begin in the legal battle over royalty rights for the steamy "Fifty Shades of Grey" novels as a Texas woman tries to claim millions of dollars that a Fort Worth jury ruled she is owed, her lawyer said on Wednesday.

A year after the jury decided that Jennifer Pedroza of Arlington, Texas, was defrauded out of her shares of the royalty money for the best-selling novel, an attorney for Pedroza said he wants a receiver appointed to protect cash and property owed to his client from her former business partner, Amanda Hayward of Australia.

Texas District Court Judge Susan McCoy, in Fort Worth, last summer ordered that $10 million be set aside to satisfy the jury verdict. A final judgment reached last month entitles Pedroza to about $11.6 million.

Hayward has appealed the decision.

“We are hoping that we can get at least some assistance from the court,” Pedroza’s attorney Mike Farris said.

Farris said he wants McCoy to appoint a receiver to prevent Hayward from spending, concealing or transferring assets while the appeal is in progress. Among the assets are four houses in Australia, a hair salon, a commercial property, a sports academy and an investment account with $7 million, he said.

"We are looking forward to appealing the judgment," David Keltner, Hayward’s Fort Worth attorney, said.

Pedroza was part of The Writers Coffee Shop, a small, independent publisher that originally published the "Fifty Shades" trilogy as an e-book and print-on-demand book, according to court papers.

The rights to the books, written by British author E.L. James, were sold for more than $40 million to Random House, and the deal led to the sale of more than 100 million copies worldwide.

A film based on the first book, "Fifty Shades of Grey," took in more $570 million in the United States and abroad, according to tracking site Box Office Mojo.

The Texas jury determined in February 2015 that Pedroza was one of the four original owners of The Writers Coffee Shop and Hayward fraudulently presented the restructuring arrangement so she could keep the Random House money for herself.

Random House is owned by German media group Bertelsmann and British publisher Pearson Plc.

(Reporting by Marice Richter; Editing by Leslie Adler)