Best-selling author John Grisham and a couple he knows must answer allegations that they deliberately caused a woman’s emotional problems by accusing her of sending them anonymous letters, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled Friday.
In a 6-1 ruling, the court reinstated Katharine Almy’s lawsuit against Grisham, Alan Swanson _ a teacher at a private school were Grisham served on the board of directors _ and Swanson’s wife, Donna.
A judge had dismissed the lawsuit after reviewing a deposition by a mental health professional who treated Almy. The justices, however, ruled Almy had stated allegations sufficient to hold a trial on her claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Almy, who denies writing the letters, is entitled to her day in court, said her lawyer, Bernard J. DiMuro.
Thomas E. Albro, the attorney for Grisham and the Swansons, declined to comment.
Donna Swanson received several handwritten letters between 1996 and 1998 accusing her husband of infidelity, among other allegations, according to the facts set out in Friday’s ruling. Grisham, a Charlottesville-area resident whose legal thrillers include ‘The Firm’ and ‘The Runaway Jury,’ also received an anonymous letter in 1998. The court did not describe the contents of that letter.
Almy claims Grisham and the Swansons set out to prove she wrote the letters, hiring two handwriting experts to compare the letters to other samples of her writing: materials from a baseball league in which Almy’s daughter played and Grisham coached and confidential records from her children’s files at the school.
Almy alleges the defendants persuaded authorities to send a police officer to Almy’s home to confront her, which she says caused her severe emotional problems.