A Los Angeles Superior Court jury has awarded former Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers more than $7.1 million based on his claim that the newspaper discriminated against him because of his age and a disability.
The verdict Wednesday evening came after a six-week trial, in which the newspaperman claimed that the Times first tried to stifle his critical writing about one-time Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, then diminished his role at the paper after he suffered from complex migraine syndrome. Simers charged that the Times used his disability as an excuse to make his work life miserable — putting his writing under increasing scrutiny, reducing his column from three times a week to two and then converting him into a blogger.
Simers, now 65, claimed the newspaper took the actions because of his age and that it intended to replace him with a journalist who was roughly half his age–Dodgers beat writer Dylan Hernandez. He made $234,000 a year before leaving the Times for the Orange County Register.
Times editors argued, in contrast, that they initiated a review of Simers’ work out of concern that he had violated ethical standards. Simers filmed a video interview with former Laker Dwight Howard, in which Simers’ daughter tried to show Howard how to improve his free throw shooting. The paper claimed that the columnist was using his work for the paper to promote a personal project — a T.V. comedy centered on a father-daughter relationship.
The Times issued a statement through spokeswoman Hillary Manning, saying it would appeal. “We believe the allegations Mr. Simers made against the Los Angeles Times are unfounded, and we are filing an appeal,” the statement said. “Our editors acted to protect the integrity of the newspaper and to uphold fundamental principles of journalistic ethics. We will continue to work through the legal system to resolve this matter.”