Former Thomas Nelson plans to appeal $15M award

Nashville-based publisher HarperCollins Christian Publishing, the entity that acquired Thomas Nelson earlier this decade, has been found guilty of fraud and breach of contract after a six-year legal entanglement with a California book manufacturing company.

At its inception, the dispute between HarperCollins and EPAC Technologies was pegged as a communication failure. However, the $15 million jury award for punitive and compensatory damages tells a different story. According to court filings, HarperCollins officials not only fabricated claims in an attempt to end their contract with EPAC, they also continuously purged evidence for years — 1.5 million messages in all, according to EPAC — after being issued notice to preserve communications by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

Sasha Dobrovolsky, founder and CEO of EPAC, said in a release that “this case reaffirms the value of our jury system for civil cases. We believe that the jurors were able to see HarperCollins’ fabricated defenses for what they were. These same jurors also sent a loud and clear message that such egregious behavior by companies and their executives cannot be tolerated.”

Despite the unanimous vote by the jury, HarperCollins executives are standing by their original plea.

“We disagree with the jury’s verdict and have already begun the process of challenging it in Court,” a Thomas Nelson spokesperson told the Post. “Thomas Nelson believes that the so-called fraud claim (not disclosing to EPAC that it was also negotiating with a competitor) is wholly without merit, legally or factually, and that it acted properly in 2011 when it terminated the printing contract that EPAC admitted it could not fulfill.”

At the beginning of the case, Thomas Nelson was controlled by private equity firm Kohlberg & Co. The sale to HarperCollins was announced six months after the company ended its contract with EPAC.

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