A local woman who felt cheated out of hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of dollars in a Fifty Shades of Grey publishing deal is now tingling like Anastasia Steele after a dalliance with Christian Grey.
A Tarrant County jury ruled in favor of Jenny Pedroza this afternoon in a lawsuit she filed against the book’s original publisher.
“The good guy won,” Arlington resident Pedroza told Fort Worth Weekly with a laugh. “I wanted you to know first because your story started it all, it really did.”
I profiled Pedroza and Christa Beebe last year (“Soap Opera,” Jan. 29, 2014) after they started a soap business in Arlington. During the discussion, Pedroza explained how they’d previously quit their jobs as teachers to work at a small, online publishing company called The Writers Coffee Shop. That company became the original publisher of Fifty Shades of Grey, a mommy-porn romance novel turned bestseller turned box office king.
Pedroza co-founded the company with Australian resident Amanda Hayward and two other women, and later hired Beebe to help with book distribution. After Writers Coffee Shop sold the Fifty Shades publishing rights, Hayward asked Pedroza to sign an agreement to restructure the company as a sole proprietorship. Hayward told Pedroza it would provide tax advantages, but it also allowed her to cut her out of profits after publishing rights were sold to Random House, Pedroza said.
She feels vindicated after the jury’s decision.
“I’m overjoyed,” Pedroza said. “I’ve had the best friends and family support me through some really dark times. I want to tell them I love them and I really appreciate all of it.”
Pedroza’s attorney, Mike Farris, said the amount of damages has yet to be determined.
“The jury found the existence of a partnership…, found that fraud had been committed, and found that Amanda Hayward had not complied with her partnership duties,” he said. “They found that Jenny had been fraudulently induced to enter into the service agreement.”
Judge Susan Heygood McCoy of the 153rd District Court in Tarrant County will determine how much money is owed to Hayward’s former partners.
“Right now it’s just a jury verdict, nothing is final until a judgment is entered,” Farris said. “This is the first big step toward getting a judgment in Jenny’s favor.”
After the first Weekly story was published, Hayward sent a cease and desist letter to Pedroza and Beebe and threatened to sue them. The Australia resident accused the local women of revealing confidential information in the article.
Hayward has not responded to several interview requests.
During our interviews for the original story, Pedroza seemed to be second-guessing her decision to not pursue litigation. When Hayward’s lawyer sent the cease-and-desist letter after our story was published, Pedroza and Beebe decided to go to war. They contacted Dallas attorney Mike Farris and each filed separate lawsuits and a temporary restraining order against Hayward and TWCS Operations.
Hayward was embarrassed by the Weekly story and was trying to “bully them into being quiet,” Farris said last year after filing the lawsuit.
Pedroza, who began working this year as a fourth grade teacher in Fort Worth, said she has not seen the movie adaptation of the book.
Fifty Shades of Grey was released to movie theaters last week and has already earned $300 million worldwide.