Jury awards $7.13 million to ex-LA Times sports columnist TJ Simers – Los Angeles Times

A jury awarded $7.13 million on Wednesday to former Los Angeles Times sports columnist T.J. Simers, who contended the newspaper discriminated against him and forced him out of his $234,000-a-year job after he suffered a mini-stroke in March 2013.

The verdict capped a six-week trial that included testimony from Simers, his former bosses at The Times and L.A. Dodgers ex-manager Tommy Lasorda.

Simers, 65, sued the newspaper in October 2013, alleging top editors fired him as a columnist and subjected him to discrimination because of his age and a disability.

The Times called his claims baseless and contended that Simers quit in September 2013 after being disciplined for failing to fully disclose to his editors an outside business relationship with a television producer. The newspaper’s ethics guidelines require full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest.

The Los Angeles Superior Court jury of eight women and four men deliberated for two days. Foreman Orie McLemore said afterward that the panel could not reconcile Simers’ history of positive performance reviews with The Times’ response to the ethics violation, which involved taking away his column but keeping him on staff as a reporter.

“It seemed that they didn’t deal with Mr. Simers in a proper manner,” McLemore said. “How can you take someone who’s been doing that well and then all of a sudden he’s not up to par? I have got to feel there’s something there.”

Simers declined to comment on the verdict. The Times plans to appeal.

“We believe the allegations Mr. Simers made against the Los Angeles Times are unfounded, and we are filing an appeal,” said Hillary Manning, a spokeswoman for The Times. “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.”

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