- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A whopping clerical error in Ryan Zimmerman’s lawsuit against Al Jazeera America was fixed on Monday.

At the top of the docket for the libel suit filed by the Washington Nationals’ first baseman against the since-disbanded media company, former athlete Liam Collins, reporter Deborah Davies, the Al Jazeera Media Network and Al Jazeera International, is a section labeled “demand.” In court documents reviewed by The Washington Times last week, a sum of $75 million was listed in the space. It was corrected on Monday to $75,000.

Zimmerman’s camp was surprised when The Washington Times reported the $75 million figure. After a review, it contacted the clerk’s office for Washington’s U.S. District Court to adjust the figure. It was altered on Monday with no reference to the change made in the documentation.

A spokeswoman for the court said that quality controls are in place and that the error was located and fixed. How and where the error originated is unclear.

The $75,000 is essentially a placeholder to enter federal court. In order for a suit to be accepted to federal court under diversity jurisdiction, which Zimmerman’s was, it has to be between parties from different states — Zimmerman is a Virginia native, Al Jazeera’s office is based in Washington — and the amount in controversy has to exceed $75,000, hence the initial damage figure. It does not represent the amount Zimmerman may ask for during trial proceedings. That total will be determined later and will be difficult to determine, as Zimmerman’s lawyers have to quantify what Zimmerman’s reputation is worth and then prove it was damaged to that extent.

Zimmerman filed his suit on Jan. 5 after Charlie Sly, a former Indianapolis anti-aging institute worker, appeared in a documentary titled “The Dark Side” and said Zimmerman was among his clients for performance-enhancing drugs, specifically one known as Delta-2. Sly recanted his statements on video before the documentary aired. According to court documents, Zimmerman’s lawyers also claim that Al Jazeera America was informed in writing prior to airing the broadcast that Sly’s statements were false.

Zimmerman has vociferously denied the accusation since the documentary aired. In an expansive 20-minute interview with reporters in spring training, Zimmerman said he has never used PEDs, never met Sly, and has filed the difficult-to-win libel suit to prove those points.

The suit was filed on Jan. 5 in Washington District Court. Lawyers for Al Jazeera, Collins and Davies have filed motions to dismiss the case. Those motions are among multiple pieces of the suit awaiting a ruling from judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

During the last four months, the defense has begun to build a case on the basis that Zimmerman cannot prove “malice.”

Zimmerman’s lawyers have until June 7 to file their opposition to the motions to dismiss. The defense has until July 7 to respond to the opposition filing. There is no definitive timeline for when the judge will rule on the motions once they are filed, indicating the trial could drag well beyond the baseball season if the motions to dismiss are denied by the judge.

For now, both sides have agreed to stay the discovery process, which would be the most invasive part of the suit for Zimmerman. Should discovery proceed, Zimmerman’s personal correspondences will be looked into. He could also be deposed and subpoenas could be sent. Zimmerman said in February that his willingness to navigate the discovery process is another sign of his innocence.

The Nationals opened a three-game series in New York against the Mets on Tuesday. Zimmerman was hitting .234 entering the game.


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