‘Running with Scissors’ Author Settles Suit with Therapist’s Family

By | August 31, 2007

A western massachusetts family that claimed author Augusten Burroughs defamed them in his best-selling book “Running with Scissors” has settled a lawsuit against the author and his publisher, according to the family’s attorney.

Burroughs and his publisher, St. Martin’s Press, have agreed to call the work a “book” instead of “memoirs” in the author’s note 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,” and expressing regret for “any unintentional harm” to them, according to Howard Cooper, an attorney for the family.

He said financial terms of the settlement are confidential. The family’s lawsuit had sought $2 million (euro1.47 million) in damages for defamation, invasion of privacy, and emotional distress.

The family alleged that the book is largely fictional and written in a sensational way to increase its market appeal, and demanded a public retraction and an acknowledgment that “Running With Scissors” is a work of fiction.

An attorney for Burroughs declined comment, and St. Martin’s Press did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday.

Burroughs has said the book is only loosely based on his life.

According to a statement from the family’s attorneys, Burroughs’ new acknowledgments note will say that the Turcottes “are each fine, decent, and hardworking 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 a 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, Mass. as a teenager. According to the lawsuit, Burroughs’ entire family was in therapy with Dr. Rodolph Turcotte, a psychiatrist. 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, with a young child running around naked and defecating, and an old turkey being stored in the showers.

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