Exclusive: T.J. Simers speaks after winning lawsuit against Los Angeles Times

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T.J. Simers speaks exclusively with ABC7 after a jury awarded him $7 million in a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times.

It was a major victory for a former Los Angeles Times sports columnist T.J. Simers who said he was forced out of his job due to his age and health.

A jury awarded Simers more than $7 million in a lawsuit against the paper, and on Thursday, the journalist sat down to speak to ABC7 exclusively.

"I got sick and I got old, which is a terrible combination in this day of newspapers," Simers said.

Simers, who calls himself an old newspaper man, had covered sports in L.A. for more than 20 years, and the last 13 of those as a sports columnist.

"It was a fun, fun time until all of a sudden, it wasn't," Simers said.

Simers said back in 2013, he suffered a then-diagnosed mini-stroke while on the job. Soon after, the L.A. Times took one of his three columns away, and Simers said his editors began overly-criticizing his work.

He resigned a few months later, and after a short stint at the Orange County Register, he fell into a debilitating state of depression.

"On my knees, I was down on the ground curled up in a ball. When I sat down, put the fingers on the keyboard, they didn't cooperate," Simers explained.

What followed that was a seven-week civil trial. The L.A. Times argued Simers quit after he was suspended for not disclosing a business deal with a TV producer.

Simers claimed the paper was trying to replace him with a younger person.

And even though the jury sided with Simers, the 65-year-old said he struggled with some 17 hours of cross-examination in the age discrimination suit.

"It's a grueling, grueling process," Simers said. "It wiped me out."

But that grueling experience may not be over, as the L.A. Times promised to appeal the verdict and said the claims made by Simers are unfounded.

The Times declined an on-camera interview with ABC7, but in a written statement said, "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."

In the meantime, Simers said he feels his reputation has been restored and his depression lifted, even though he's not sure when or even if his fingers will return to the keyboard.
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