Sports columnist for LA Times claims constructive termination; $7.1 million. Reduced on JNOV.

Summary

Long-time sports columnist for LA Times with national reputation claims he was discriminated against, constructively terminated. Judge later grants motion for JNOV, reduces verdict to zero.

The Case

  • Case Name: Simers v. Tribune Company
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC 524471
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, November 04, 2015
  • Type of Action: Discrimination, ADA, Employment
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. William A. MacLauglin
  • Plaintiffs:
    T.J. Simers, 63
  • Defendants:
    Los Angeles Times
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $7,130,000
  • Economic Damages:

    $2,130,000.  Later reduced to zero by the judge on motion for JNOV. The judge found that plaintiff was not terminated but had quit. Appeals are expected.

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $5,000,000 for emotional damages. Later reduced to zero by the judge on motion for JNOV. The judge found that plaintiff was not terminated but had quit. Appeals are expected.

  • Punitive Damages:

    None awarded.

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 6 weeks
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 1 1/2 days.
  • Jury Polls: 9-3
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Motion for attorney’s fees.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Shegerian & Associates by Carney Shegerian and Anthony Nguyen, Santa Monica.

    Shegerian & Associates by Courtney Rowley, Los Angeles.

    Urbanic & Associates by James Urbanic, Los Angeles.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Davis Wright Tremaine LLP by Emilio G. Gonzalez, Los Angeles.

    Ballard, Rosenberg, Golper & Savitt by Linda Miller Savitt, Glendale.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Warren Procci, M.D., psychiatry, Pasadena.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Tamorah Hunt, economics.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff worked for the Los Angeles Times for 23 years, the last 13 of which as a featured sports columnist with a national following. Plaintiff, who suffers from complex migraine syndrome, collapsed at work in 2013 from what was then diagnosed as a mini-stroke. He continued to produce his popular column despite his health concerns, which were communicated to the Times. His column was taken away and he was made a regular reporter at the same salary.  He later resigned and accepted a position with the Orange County Register at a lesser salary.

    Plaintiff was also reported to be working on a deal with a TV producer to create a comedy based loosely on his life as a sports writer. The Times would claim that this resulted in an ethics policy violation by plaintiff.

     

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That after his health problems became known, the Times started an investigation. Plaintiff claimed that the Times provided no clarity during this investigation. After the onset of these health issues, plaintiff’ claimed his support from management dwindled and his column was reduced until he was suspended.

    That plaintiff, who was earning $234,000 a year, was targeted for a false policy violation in an attempt to force him out of his position in favor of younger, lower-salaried employees.  

    Plaintiff contended that he was wrongfully terminated for a false ethics violation, defamed and constructively terminated because of his age and his neurological condition. 

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Los Angeles Times contended that plaintiff violated ethics polices in pursuing outside interest and not disclosing such, interest to the Los Angeles Times. The Los Angeles Times denied demoting plaintiff and argued that  plaintiff voluntarily resigned.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Emotional distress from the constructive discharge.

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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