Texas judge orders $10m set aside for Fifty Shades settlement

A woman looks at books from the Fifty Shades Of Grey series in a bookstore in New York on June 18, 2015.
A woman looks at books from the Fifty Shades Of Grey series in a bookstore in New York on June 18, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

Fort Worth, Texas (Reuters) - An Australian woman who helped publish Fifty Shades Of Grey was ordered by a Fort Worth judge on Wednesday to set aside US$10 million (S$14 million) for a Texas woman a jury said was defrauded out of her share of the royalty rights for the steamy best-selling novel.

Jennifer Pedroza of Arlington could be awarded about US$10.7 million once attorneys for her and former business partner Amanda Hayward of Australia settle on the amount she is owed, including attorney fees, court officials said.

Judge Susan McCoy said she would rule on a firm amount once an agreement between the two sides was reached.

Pedroza was part of The Writers Coffee Shop, a small independent publisher of e-books that originally published the Fifty Shades trilogy as an e-book and print-on-demand book, according to court papers.

She did not appear in court on Wednesday but her attorney, Mike Farris, said: "We have been pleased with everything since the jury verdict."

The rights to the books written by British author E.L. James were sold to Random House and the deal led to the sale of more than 100 million copies worldwide. A film based on the first book, Fifty Shades Of Grey, took in more US$570 million in the United States and abroad, according to tracking site Box Office Mojo.

A Fort Worth jury decided in February that Pedroza was defrauded out of her share of royalties by Hayward, who tricked Pedroza into signing an agreement that cut her out of her share of the royalties after Hayward signed the deal with Random House.

The jury determined that Pedroza was one of the four original owners of The Writers Coffee Shop and Hayward fraudulently presented the restructuring arrangement so she could keep the Random House money for herself.

After attorneys for Hayward said she did not have US$10 million available, McCoy said she would allow property to be applied toward the amount.

David Keltner, an attorney for Hayward, said the jury decision and judgment might be appealed.

Pedroza filed the lawsuit in Tarrant County in May 2014, seeking an amount over US$1 million, according to court papers.