Employers all over California are once again hearing the siren call of arbitration in the wake of a $15.4 million single-plaintiff verdict that a Los Angeles jury delivered to a former Los Angeles Times sports columnist on Monday. T.J. Simers sued the paper for age and disability discrimination. Simers quit his job in 2013 following an investigation into a possible ethical breach on his part, which resulted in a “final written warning” and a change of his position from columnist to senior reporter. Although Simers was given an offer to return to his prior position as a columnist less than three weeks later, he declined because he “did not trust The Times“; instead, he accepted a new position at the Orange County Register.
Simers filed this lawsuit against The Times, alleging that he was forced to quit his job due to age and disability discrimination (shortly before he quit, Simers allegedly suffered a “neurological event” from which he quickly recovered). In 2015, a jury awarded Simers $7.1 million based on the alleged discrimination, but the trial judge ordered a new trial on damages. In this retrial, a new jury awarded Simers more than twice as much money ($15.4 million) for his noneconomic/emotional distress damages. After the verdict, one of Simers’ lawyers boasted that after prejudgment interest and attorney’s fees were added to the award, it would exceed $22 million.