Center for Inquiry
Amherst, New York -- Self proclaimed "psychic" Uri Geller had to dismiss a multi-million dollar libel suit and has to pay over $20,000 in sanctions in an action he brought against skeptical book publisher Prometheus Books of Amherst, New York.
In the suit, filed April of 1992 in Miami, Florida, Geller requested four million dollars in damages for statements about him appearing in the Prometheus Books Physics and Psychics, by author Victor Stenger, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Hawaii, and The Transcendental Temptation, by Paul Kurtz, author and chairman of Prometheus Books. In a pre-suit settlement demand, Geller's lawyers had demanded as a "full and final" position that all references to him be deleted from both books, that full-page apologies be published in several metropolitan newspapers, and that he be paid one million dollars. Prometheus's Miami attorney, Brenton Ver Ploeg, responded that the threatened lawsuit was frivolous and, if actually filed, would eventually cause sanctions to be imposed against Geller.
On February 4, 1994 the court issued an Order of Dismissal that instructed Geller to reimburse the Prometheus defendants for costs and reasonable attorney's fees in the amount of $49,148.92 within 30 days, as a condition imposed upon Geller's voluntary dismissal of the action without prejudice (allowing similar lawsuits to be pursued elsewhere). The fees and costs represent the expense incurred by Prometheus after the date Geller knew that the suit was barred because the statute of limitations had expired, but proceeded nonetheless.
Geller, however, failed to pay the $49,148.92 in fees and costs, and, as the court had warned, the voluntary dismissal was judicially converted to one with prejudice (effectively barring Geller from prosecuting the suit in any other jurisdiction) and imposing a new sanctions award of $20,272.89, the costs incurred by defendants after April 12, 1993.
On July 5 Geller noted an appeal from this decision. On August 17, however, he dismissed his appeal, terminated the litigation, and paid Prometheus and Stenger $20,272.89, followed by another check for $299.53 in interest.
When informed of Geller's payment and dismissal of the appeal, Prometheus Chairman Paul Kurtz stated, "Naturally we are relieved; it's been a long and difficult two years, but it also shows the importance of fighting for what you believe in. It seems Mr. Geller's alleged psychic powers weren't working correctly when he decided to file this suit." Ver Ploeg said that the result "seems to suggest that Mr. Geller has little prospect of employment as a consultant in the prediction of legal results."
Prometheus Books is the leading publisher in the world of scientific books critical of paranormal claims, and both Kurtz and Stenger had questioned Geller's claim that he had special "psychic powers."
"There had been a persistent effort to blunt scientific criticism of psychic claims and to chill freedom of the press," according to Kurtz. "This is a great victory for us, but it's still an ongoing battle. Who knows when it will end or how; I'm not a psychic."
Geller had also sued Professor Stenger in Hawaii (where he lost), and both Prometheus and Stenger in London, England. Given the dismissal with prejudice in Miami, this suit is considered null and void by Prometheus attorneys.
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