Former Los Angeles Times sports columnist T.J. Simers won $7.1 million in an age and disability discrimination suit against the paper, reports Law360. Simers initially asked for $12.2 million, but the jury decided to give him “$330,358 for past economic damages, $1.8 million for future economic damages, $2.5 million for past non-economic damages and $2.5 million for future non-economic damages.”
Simers, 65, was at the Los Angeles Times from 1990 to 2013, before taking a job at the Orange County Register. During the six-week trial, Simers’s lawyers argued that the Times made his job a living hell after Simers suffered a minor stroke during spring training and was diagnosed with complex migraine syndrome, according to Courthouse News Service. He says he was suddenly subject to strict scrutiny from his editors that he’d never faced before, that his column was cut back from three to two days a week, and that the paper lined up says Dylan Hernandez (the Times’s Dodgers beat writer) to take his place.
But according to the Times, they demoted Simers because of the circumstances surrounding a video of his daughter and Dwight Howard—then the Lakers center—having a free throw shooting contest, which he also wrote about for the paper. They say Simers failed to mention to his editors that he had a business relationship with the producer of the video, who was pitching a television show based on Simers’s life, and wanted to use the video to promote his sports media company. When he was threatened with demotion over the brouhaha, Simers bolted to the rival paper.
T.J. Simers, to put it bluntly, was a terrible columnist, embodying every cliche imaginable about the old, out of touch, cranky, hack of a print newspaper sports columnist. So what’s amazing about this story isn’t necessarily the $7.1 million verdict—though that’s crazy—but the surrounding details that came out during the trial.
The Times said that, if he had acknowledged his error, Simers would have been allowed to continue to write on his $234,000(!) salary—which he was paid, remember, to write just three columns a week—and they even offered him a one-year contract extension. They offered a quarter of a million-dollar contract extension to the hacky columnist who they had concluded violated their ethical policies by writing about a staged free throw contest used to promote his and his business associate’s fortunes!
Then, when Simers left, he somehow convinced the Orange County Register—in the middle of a poorly conceived and ultimately doomed plan to “flood the zone” and expand—to pay him $190,000. In the Year Of Our Lord 2013, there was actually a group of people that looked upon the work Simers had done for the Times and felt paying him an exorbitant salary for it was a worthwhile expenditure. When the Orange County Register began offering buyouts in 2014 (they declared bankruptcy on Sunday night), Simers took one.
The Los Angeles Times is going through troubles of its own, having fired their popular publisher and attempting to cut $10 million in expenditures, which led to buyouts that 15% of the staff raised their hand for. With their paper losing money and being strip mined of talent, Times staffers must be thrilled at having to give T.J. Simers $7.1 million.
[Law360/Courthouse News Service]
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