Harper Lee is suing her former agent, Sam Pinkus, to recover royalties from To Kill a Mockingbird dating back to 2007, when he allegedly tricked her into signing over copyright to the classic novel as she was in an assisted living facility recovering from a stroke.
“Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see,” Lee’s lawyer Gloria Phares says in a complaint filed in federal court last week, according to Bloomberg and other news sources. The 87-year-old author regained rights to the novel in 2012, but Pinkus has continued to collect royalties.
Lee’s filing is the latest move in a legal battle that began more than a decade ago. Pinkus is the son-in-law of Eugene Winnick of McIntosh & Otis, who represented Lee for decades before becoming ill in 2002. According to Lee’s complaint, Pinkus took over from Winnick and attempted to divert several M&O clients to a company he owned, Veritas Media.
Last year M&O won an arbitration award against Veritas, ordering Pinkus to pay $780,000 plus interest for commissions on works including To Kill a Mockingbird, on which $212,000 was owed to M&O, according to court documents.
Lee has lived in seclusion in Monroeville, Ala since her Pulitzer Prize winning novel was published in 1960. To Kill a Mockingbird has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.