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Patricia Cornwell wins lawsuit against financial firm

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It could have been a case ripped from the pages of her bestselling crime novels. Fortunately for Patricia Cornwell, a contentious dispute about mismanaged money had a happy ending when a Boston jury awarded her $51 million in damages in a suit against a Manhattan financial firm she said cost her millions of dollars in lost revenues.

The mystery writer was awarded $50.9 million in a federal lawsuit against financial firm Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP, and its former principal, Evan Snapper, for negligence. Cornwell hired the firm in 2005 to manage her accounts and claimed it mismanaged her fortune, causing her to lose $89 million, with her net worth dwindling to close to $13 million – a record low for the commercially successful author who earns an eight-figure salary most years.

“God bless justice,” Cornwell said after the verdict was announced, according to the Associated Press. “It’s a huge relief and it’s been a huge ordeal.”

The author – who, thanks to the lawsuit, is now also known for her lavish lifestyle, which includes Ferraris, helicopters, and a $40,000-a-month apartment she rented in New York City – said the firm’s mismanagement “caused her to miss a book deadline for the first time in her career when it failed to find her a suitable place to write after renovation work on her house in Concord went on much longer than expected,” according to the Associated Press.

“This was very destabilizing. I really lost my ability to focus and concentrate. I did not know what the book was about anymore,” Cornwell said, according to the AP.

That missed deadline caused her to lose at least one year’s income – about $15 million, she claimed.

The 56-year-old crime novelist is best known for her Scarpetta series starring medical examiner Kay Scarpetta. The books shine a spotlight on the field of forensic science and are even said to have influenced such popular TV series as "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and "Cold Case Files."

Cornwell’s books have sold more than 100 million copies. Perhaps, with this real-life happy ending in hand, they will climb higher yet.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.


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