Hasselbeck suffers from Celiac's disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by the consumption of gluten found in wheat, barley and rye. She released a book about living with the condition in May of this year. "The G-Free Diet" has since made it to the New York Times advice bestseller list.
However, an East Falmouth woman says that Hasselbeck's work is too similar to her own. Susan Hassett, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, claims that she sent Hasselbeck a copy of her own self-published work by certified mail in April 2008.
Thirteen months later, Hasselbeck's book was released.
Hassett alleges that Hasselbeck's work is similar in structure to her own and "contains actual copying such that it is substantially similar to [her] copyrighted book."
In her own book, Hassett writes: "My reason for writing this book is to try to help other people learn to live with this disease. I don't want people to endure all the pain and suffering I have been through."
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Paul Rapp, an intellectual property lawyer in Housatonic, tells Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly that the plaintiff will have to show that Hasselbeck had access to her book and demonstrate "substantial similarity" between the two. "If there are long, verbatim passages, then you could have infringement. But in a case like this, if the book were structured similarly but that structure was the logical structure for a book of this topic, you wouldn't have infringement."
Hasselbeck's legal counsel advised the plaintiff's lawyer in June that the infringement claim had no merit. Hassett's lawyer has since withdrawn. The plaintiff filed a pro se claim on her own in November.