HUNTINGTON — Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams has filed a federal lawsuit seeking an injunction to stop a man from publishing a book about Williams’ life this summer, saying he fears potential inaccuracies could ruin his reputation after a book deal went defunct.
The lawsuit was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia against Bryan Mark Rigg, of Dallas, Texas, and his unnamed publishing company. It asks for a restraining order to prevent the book being published and alleging five counts against Rigg, including breach of contract, detrimental reliance, interference with right of publicity and conversion.
It also requests monetary compensation and the return of personal property Williams loaned the defendant to assist with the writing of the book.
Williams’ attorney J.H. Mahaney, of Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, said in the lawsuit the defendant allegedly breached the agreement by refusing to allow Williams to have input on the content of the book.
“Mr. Williams is entitled to an order from this court requiring that the defendant specifically perform the promises and representations made to Mr. Williams with respect to the preparation and publishing of the book,” Mahaney wrote.
Williams, 95, of Ona, has become a public figure in the Tri-State area since being awarded the Medal of Honor for his service against Japanese forces during World War II in Iwo Jima. He is one of three remaining living veterans to receive the honor for service given in World War II.
After Rigg and Williams met in 2015, when Williams toured Guam and Iwo Jima for the first time since the end of World War II, Williams and his family had been working with Rigg to publish a book focusing on Williams’ “untold story.”
Williams was to provide the defendant with personal information about his life and military service. The defendant was to conduct research necessary for the book and prepare a draft, but Williams was to have authority over the text and content of the book.
As part of the deal, the pair was to split the book’s profits, the lawsuit alleges.
On at least two different occasions, the pair and the Williams family met to discuss Williams’ personal life and visit various places throughout West Virginia. Williams also provided to the defendant an original manuscript of his autobiography, handwritten notes, photographs and other artifacts to help with the book.
As the defendant wrote the book, he would provide drafts to Williams for his input and make corrections as needed. More than 20 drafts of portions of the book were provided to Williams.
Sometime in early 2018, the draft of the book was completed, but the relationship between the parties deteriorated when the defendant expressed his dissatisfaction with the financial terms agreed upon by the parties, the lawsuit alleges.
Williams said the defendant continued to modify the draft, adding additional content that Williams alleged could contain false and misleading content. He alleges the defendant allegedly has refused to provide subsequent drafts to him for his review.
Williams revoked his consent for the defendant to use his name and asked that he not publish the book with any drafts he had not approved. He also requested his personal items be returned, but he has not received those items, the lawsuit alleges.
Mahaney believes the book was to be published in May, but it has not been released as of the lawsuit’s filing.