New Jersey resident Joan Crescenz’s lawsuit against the Penguin Publishing Group and Michael Capuzzo, the author of a 2010 novel detailing the exploits of the Vidocq Society, a real-life team of Sherlock Holmes-type detectives who crack cold cases, was dismissed this month in a federal ruling. Crescenz sued both Penguin and Capuzzo for libel, claiming that Capuzzo’s novel, The Murder Room, portrays an extramarital affair between Crescenz and one of the book’s main characters, Frank Bender. U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman dismissed the suit on the grounds that Crescenz had failed to prove any negligence in fact-checking the book on the part of either author or publisher, New Jersey personal injury attorneys report.
Bender, a forensic artist who reconstructed facial images based on murder victims’ bodies, was a leading member of the Vidocq Society. Crescenz was Bender’s assistant for 30 years until his death in 2011. The Murder Room alluded to an extramarital affair between the two. In her libel suit, Crescenz highlighted passages from the non-fiction work that described Bender’s “open marriage” and sexual activities. She accused Penguin and Capuzzo of exploiting her as a private figure, which fell under the category of negligence. However, Penguin’s New Jersey personal injury attorneys argued that the relationship with Crescenz and Bender was a matter of public concern, in which case Crescenz would be required to prove actual malice.
In dismissing the case, Judge Hillman ruled that it did not matter whether Crescenz’s and Bender’s alleged relationship was public or private concern because Crescenz’s lawsuit had not proved negligence in the first place. New Jersey personal injury attorneys said that Capuzzo had access to a number of public statements and undisputed details about Bender’s personal life, including a piece in Esquire that listed Crescenz as Bender’s “second wife,” and numerous business trips where the two stayed in one-bed hotel rooms. Hillman said these details allowed Capuzzo to draw conclusions about the relationship between Crescenz and Bender. In addition, outside legal counsel for Penguin checked out and vetted the novel, and there was no proof of negligence by either party.
The judge’s ruling highlights the importance of proving negligence through evidence in a lawsuit of this nature. The New Jersey personal injury attorneys at Helmer, Conley and Kasselman, PA use their years of experience to prove negligence in personal injury cases. For assistance and advice in your legal matter, contact one of our NJ personal injury lawyers for a consultation today.