The conservative firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos has been victorious in the first round of his lawsuit against the book publishing giant Simon & Schuster, which he sued after they unceremoniously canceled his book, “Dangerous.” The publisher lost a motion to dismiss the $10 million lawsuit in a New York court on Thursday.
Earlier this year, Simon & Schuster severed its ties with Yiannopoulos after a video interview of the conservative provocateur emerged in which his detractors claim he endorsed sex with minors.
The company sent him a letter in February, telling him he could keep the $80,000 book advance he received for penning Dangerous, which he later published under his own company. Simon & Schuster said that when Yiannopoulos didn’t respond to the letter, the company considered it a representation of full satisfaction and discharge of their obligations under the publishing agreement.
Yiannopoulos disagreed with their view, and sued them for $10 million in May, accusing the company of breaching its agreement to publish the book over fear of repercussions from progressives.
In response, the publisher called the lawsuit a “publicity stunt” and argued that because he didn’t respond to its letter, his lawsuit was barred under the legal doctrine of accord and satisfaction.
“Milo has one of the largest bullhorns in the country,” said Elizabeth McNamara, who represented Simon & Schuster at Thursday’s hearing (per Hollywood Reporter). “He knows how to use it. His silence speaks volumes.”
However, New York Supreme Court judge Barry Ostrager disagreed with her assessment. The judge cited Yiannopoulos’ own arguments that he had 18 months to return the $80,000, and that no such inferences could be drawn from his silence.
The judge asked whether Yiannopoulos’ decision to self-publish his book was evidence that he had accepted the termination of Simon & Schuster’s contract. Yiannopoulos’ attorney Stephen Meister pointed to the February letter as having reverted rights independent of any alleged termination.
He informed the judge that under the agreed contract, if and when a manuscript is unacceptable, “We not only have a right but also an obligation to go out and find a new publisher” because money from publishing would have to be sent to Simon & Schuster to recoup their advance.
According to Yiannopoulos’ complaint, Dangerous received only $3,000 when it first made the New York Times best-seller list. However small a sum, the Simon & Schuster lawyer says that his refusal to pay a cent of that $3,000 is evidence he accepted termination of the contract.
Judge Ostrager once again disagreed, because he does not consider a few weeks of revenue to be a breach of contract.
Failing to dismiss the first round of the lawsuit, Simon & Schuster’s lawyers will now have to answer Yiannopoulos’ lawsuit, where they may argue that Milo intended to accept termination, or try to convince the judge that they were under no obligation to publish his book anyway.