Six months after dismissing Richard Simmons‘ libel- invasion of privacy suit against the National Enquirer, Radar Online and their publisher over stories claiming he was undergoing a sex change, a judge ordered the exercise guru to pay nearly $130,000 in attorneys’ fees to the media defendants, court papers obtained Monday show.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory Keosian issued his ruling Friday. He had taken the defense motion for attorneys’ fees under submission after hearing arguments on Jan. 31.
Keosian’s $128,625 award consists of an underlying amount of $110,250 for the general costs of preparing the dismissal motion and the remainder to compensate the defendants for bringing the motion for attorneys’ fees. The defendants had sought $220,000, which Simmons’ lawyers criticized as a “billing fiesta.”
In his Sept. 1 ruling dismissing Simmons’ case, Keosian said it appeared to be one of “first-impression.” He said falsely reporting that a person is transgender does not necessarily “have a natural tendency” to hurt one’s reputation.
“This court finds that because courts have long held that a misidentification of certain immutable characteristics do not naturally tend to injure one’s reputation, even if there is a sizeable portion of the population who hold prejudices against those characteristics, misidentification of a person as transgender is not actionable defamation absent special damages,” Keosian wrote.
Simmons is appealing the dismissal motion. In his lawsuit filed last May 8, Simmons contended the series of articles falsely suggested that he was transitioning from male to female, and that the stories were based on phony information provided by a former assistant.
The Enquirer stated on its website that its reporting was based on “credible sources.” The publication vowed to “vigorously” defend against the lawsuit and to “aggressively pursue our ongoing investigation into his life and who is really behind this bizarre and meritless lawsuit.”
The lawsuit alleged that Simmons was being “blackmailed, extorted and stalked” for several years by the ex-assistant, who allegedly peddled false and libelous information to the Enquirer and Radar Online, which are both owned by American Media.
The assistant — who is not named as a defendant — told the Enquirer that Simmons stopped appearing in public in 2014 because he was undergoing a sex change, according to the suit, which alleged that the Enquirer and Radar “knew and acted in reckless disregard” by relying on a tipster “who was not a credible or reliable source.”
Simmons, 69, was hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in 2017 for what was reported to be a gastrointestinal problem. Simmons, who has rarely been seen in public in recent years, posted a message on his Facebook page after he returned home, thanking the hospital staff and the police who escorted him home.
In his message, he wrote that he was not “missing,” but was just “a little under the weather.”
–City News Service
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