New Laws

Court Reduces $7.1million Jury Verdict to Zero

Long-time sports columnist, TJ Simers, sued his employer, the LA Times, alleging disability and age discrimination.  Simers claimed that in 2013, after 23 years working for the LA Times, he collapsed due to a mini-stroke.  According to JuryVerdictAlert.com, Simers claimed  he continued to produce his popular column despite his health concerns, but his column was later 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.  The LA Times contended that Simers violated ethics polices in pursuing a possible TV deal about his career, which created a conflict of interest that he failed to disclose. The Los Angeles Times denied demoting plaintiff and argued that  plaintiff voluntarily resigned.  After a jury found in his favor, the court reduced the jury verdict to zero.

Judge reduces $7.1million jury verdict to zero

A jury found in Simers’ favor (9 to 3) awarding $7.1million, including $5million in emotional distress damages.  The judge later overturned the award on a judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The court reduced the $7.1million jury verdict to zero.  The trial took about two years to get to trial and was in trial for 6 weeks. The jury deliberated for a day and a half. So, why did the court overturn the jury’s award? Because, according to the court, Simers quit his job and was not constructively terminated.

Clients often ask me whether it is better to quit or be fired.  My answer depends on what the client is trying to accomplish.  In terms of maintaining a wrongful termination action, it is almost always easier to prove the case if the employee is fired.  However, it may be easier to get a new job if the employee leaves on her own terms, and it is almost always better to have a job than a lawsuit.  This particular plaintiff spent two years of his life fighting his employer, only to end up with nothing.  Perhaps his attorneys handled the case on a contingency basis, but his attorneys likely spent hundreds of hours and they ended up with nothing.  The employer, no doubt, paid its attorneys a healthy amount, and although they won at the trial level I am sure the plaintiff will appeal.

I try to counsel my clients–employer or employee–to make smart business decisions.  What may look like a good investment at the beginning, can oftentimes turn sour as the case progresses.  Any time parties litigate a case, they are spinning the wheel of destiny with little control over the eventual outcome.  Sometimes it makes sense to spin that wheel.  Other times it doesn’t.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

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