A jury on Monday awarded nearly $15.5 million to a former sports columnist for The Los Angeles Times who said he was forced out of his job because of age and health discrimination.
The award is more than twice the $7.1 million that T.J. Simers initially won in 2015. The Times appealed and a judge reduced the amount, leading Simers to appeal and a retrial on the damages.
With prejudgment interest and attorney’s fees, the Times will owe more than $22 million, said Nick Rowley of Trial Lawyers for Justice, which helped handle the retrial.
“It is incredibly gratifying for Simers and those in similar situations to see the court vindicate his claims of age and disability discrimination,” said Carney Shegerian of Shegerian and Associates, which also handled the case.
“We believe that the award is unreasonable. We successfully appealed an earlier award and are currently evaluating our legal options,” Times spokeswoman Hillary Manning said in a statement.
Simers worked at the Times from 1990 to 2013 and was a sports columnist there for more than a decade, making $234,000 per year. But he claimed the Times cut back his column and otherwise tried to pressure him to leave after he suffered what was believed to be a mini-stroke while covering the Los Angeles Dodgers’ and Anaheim Angels’ spring training.
He was later diagnosed with complex migraine syndrome.
The Times said Simers got into trouble for an ethics breach involving a video that was briefly posted to the newspaper’s website. The video featured Simers, his daughter and former Laker Dwight Howard.
Times editors said he failed to disclose his business relationship with the producer of the video, which allegedly was a promotion for a proposed TV comedy loosely based on Simers’ life. Simers testified that at that point the project had died and he had no business relationship with the producer’s company.
Simers was suspended with pay and the Times began an investigation. In August 2013, Simers was told he would lose his column and become a reporter but instead he was offered a one-year contract for a column.
However, Simers resigned the next month. He joined the Orange County Register as a columnist but retired in 2014 after less than a year.