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John Steinbeck’s son committed breach of contract, says judge

On Behalf of | Aug 30, 2017 | Contract Disputes |

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck continues to line many bookshelves in Ohio and throughout the nation. Although the author has been deceased since 1968, his work continues to be a hot topic of conversation in literary circles, and apparently, in some courtrooms as well. His son, Thom and the daughter of his third wife are currently battling it out over ownership of Steinbeck’s writings and a breach of contract.

Names, such as Steven Spielberg, James Franco and Ron Howard have been mentioned during the acrimonious dispute. Spielberg reportedly adapted Steinbeck’s story for a film version he was never permitted to launch. Franco and Howard were supposedly going to appear in court as witnesses for the defense; however, the plaintiff (Steinbeck’s third wife’s daughter) has challenged that issue, saying an agreement was already made not to call those particular witnesses.

Steinbeck’s son and his wife are supposedly dissatisfied with their portion of royalties. The agreement including their names was signed in 1983. A U.S. District Court judge recently ruled, however, that the son committed a breach of contract by forging deals to produce new works based on his father’s writing and that he inappropriately claimed copyright ownership.

The plaintiff alleges that Steinbeck’s son and another party attempted to seal a deal for $650,000 with DreamWorks productions so that Spielberg could publish a new version of Grapes of Wrath in film. Competency is another central focus of the breach of contract dispute as it sometimes is in Ohio courtroom battles. The plaintiff has questioned Steinbeck’s son’s long- and short-term memory due to health issues; however, the matter is being left to a jury to decide.

Source:, “John Steinbeck’s Feuding Heirs Head to Trial Over Steven Spielberg ‘Grapes of Wrath’ Adaptation“, Eriq Gardner, Aug. 23, 2017


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