Author Harper Lee sues, says agent tricked her into signing over 'To Kill a Mockingbird' royalties

  • Print

At 87, the author of one of the most famous trial novels ever written has failing eyesight and hearing.

And in 2007 author Harper Lee was recovering from a stroke when she signed away her royalties from her 1960 novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, to her literary agent, Samuel Pinkus, report the Associated Press and Bloomberg.

Now Lee is suing Pinkus and others, contending in a federal complaint filed in Manhattan last week that she signed a document transferring her rights to a company controlled by Pinkus without understanding what she was doing. The suit seeks forfeiture of monies obtained by Pinkus, according to the news agencies.

“Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see,” her lawyer, Gloria Phares, wrote in the suit. “Harper Lee had no idea she had assigned her copyright.”

And, legally, as Lee’s agent, Pinkus owed her a duty of loyalty that was incompatible with this “gross example of self-dealing,” the suit contends.

In addition to Pinkus and his wife, a lawyer who has represented Pinkus was also named as a defendant. They did not respond to requests for comment from Bloomberg last week.

To Kill a Mockingbird has sold 30 million copies.

See also:

ABA Journal: “Meeting Miss Nelle: Ala. Lawyer Has a Rare Encounter with the Author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’”

ABAJournal.com: “50 Years Later, Harper Lee’s ‘Mockingbird’ Still a Cautionary Tale for Our Times, AG Holder Says”

ABAJournal.com: “Still Practicing at 100, ‘Miss Alice’ Talks of Harper Lee and Working in Their Dad’s Law Firm”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.