Friday, August 31, 2007

'Running with Scissors' suit settled

BurroughsAugusten Burroughs wrote about his childhood in the best-seller "Running with Scissors."

BOSTON, Massachusetts (AP) -- A family that claimed they were defamed in the best-selling book "Running with Scissors" has settled a lawsuit against the writer and his publisher.

Author Augusten Burroughs and publisher St. Martin's Press agreed to call the work a "book" instead of "memoirs," in the author's note -- though it still will be described as a memoir on the cover and elsewhere -- and to change the acknowledgments page in future editions to say that the Turcotte family's memories of events he describes "are different than my own." It will also express regret for "any unintentional harm" to them.

Howard Cooper, a lawyer for the family, said financial terms of the settlement are confidential.

The family's lawsuit had sought $2 million in damages for defamation, invasion of privacy and emotional distress. It alleged the book is largely fictional and written in a sensational way to increase its market appeal; it also demanded a public retraction and an acknowledgment that "Running With Scissors" is a work of fiction.

Burroughs has said the book is only loosely based on his life, but in a statement released Thursday by St. Martin's he defended his work as "entirely accurate."

"I consider this (settlement) not only a personal victory but a victory for all memoirists. I still maintain that the book is an entirely accurate memoir, and that it was not fictionalized or sensationalized in any way," Burroughs said. "I did not embellish or invent elements. We had a very strong case because I had the truth on my side."

In the publisher's statement, St. Martin's called the settlement "a complete vindication of the accuracy of the memoir."

Burroughs' new acknowledgments note will say that the Turcottes "are each fine, decent, and hard-working people," and that the book was not intended to hurt them.

The deal comes 10 months after the family said it had "mutually resolved" issues with Sony Pictures Entertainment to avoid a lawsuit over the movie based on the book.

"With this settlement, together with our settlement with Sony last year, we have achieved everything we set out to accomplish when we filed suit two years ago," the family said in the statement. "We have always maintained that the book is fictionalized and defamatory. This settlement is the most powerful vindication of those sentiments that we can imagine."

Burroughs, formerly Christopher Robison, lived with the Turcottes in Northampton as a teenager. In 1980, Burroughs' mother asked Turcotte to become his legal guardian so he could attend Northampton schools. His mother still cared for him, but he had a room at the Turcottes' home.

Though the family in Burroughs' book is named "the Finches," the lawsuit claims they are easily identified as the Turcottes, and that Burroughs identified them in interviews.

Events in the book which the suit claimed were false include the Turcottes' condoning sexual affairs between children and adults, Turcotte's wife eating dog food and the family using an electroshock machine it stored under the stairs. The lawsuit claims the book also falsely portrays a home in unbelievable squalor.