Updating a story posted earlier Tuesday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William A. MacLaughlin decided to void the remaining $5 million of the $7.1 million that a jury awarded former Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers in an age and disability discrimination lawsuit against his previous employer.
In his additional decision, Judge MacLaughlin ruled that the former Times columnist was not entitled to any damages based on emotional distress or discrimination based on his age and a disability. In his view, Simers wasn’t forced from his position at the Times. He left on his own accord after being demoted and took another job at the Orange County Register.
Simers contended that the Times reduced his workload from three weekly columns to two and eventually forced him out after he suffered a mini-stroke during spring training of 2013. Meanwhile, the paper countered that Simers had left on his own after being disciplined for not disclosing that he was developing a sitcom based on his career with producer Mike Tollin, thus creating a conflict of interest.
During his initial ruling Monday, MacLaughlin cut $2.1 million from Simers’ jury award, but didn’t explain why the $5 million awarded for discrimination claims was maintained. The judge either intended to follow up on that one day later or changed his mind after further consideration.
“At a hearing Tuesday, MacLaughlin acknowledged that his initial ruling was ambiguous and said the discrimination claims would have to be retried, because jurors awarded the $5 million for emotional distress based, to some extent, on their erroneous conclusion that Simers had been forced out.”
So it appears that Simers and the Times will have to do this legal dance again, as MacLaughlin ordered for both the constructive termination and discrimination claims to be retried. Neither Simers nor his attorney commented on the ruling. After the Times successfully appealed, will he want to go through these proceedings again? Given the potential financial awards at stake, he may indeed decide to pursue a retrial.