Zimmerman’s libel lawsuit may be close to settlement
Ryan Zimmerman’s lengthy libel and slander lawsuit against Al Jazeera took another pivot late last week.
What was set as an initial scheduling conference on June 1, instead turned into a presentation for the parties’ interests in exploring a settlement in the case, which began Jan. 5, 2016, when Zimmerman filed a libel lawsuit against Al Jazeera in U.S. District Court following the airing of the documentary, “The Dark Side” which suggested Zimmerman had used performance-enhancing drugs.
The court has ordered the parties to file a joint status report by June 28 that notifies the court of the parties’ progress with settlement discussions and how the parties wish to proceed.
When Zimmerman took the rare step of suing a media outlet for libel — which can be costly, invasive and hard to prove — he knew he was taking on a challenge. The case slogged along until Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ruled March 31 on motions to dismiss submitted by Al Jazeera, reporter Deborah Davies and documentary contributor Liam Collins. Those motions were granted and denied in part. In a nutshell, Collins was cleared. Al Jazeera and Davies remained part of the process, which could eventually lead to a protracted trial.
Zimmerman has said he decided to sue to back up his denial of the claims made in the documentary. Major League Baseball investigated last year and found no violations by Zimmerman. The focus of the documentary, Charlie Sly, recanted his statements before it aired. Al Jazeera decided to air the documentary anyway.
Initially, the documentary infuriated Zimmerman who has spent his entire career in Washington. He spoke candidly at spring training in 2016 about his views on what he believed was a slanderous tape, another rare step for an athlete accused of using PEDs.
“After the first week or two, when all the shock and the media and all that wears off and now you just have to live with it and go through it when there’s no attention really, it becomes part of your daily life,” Zimmerman said then. “Which, I would say at the beginning, it almost consumed me because you’re so upset about it and you’re so worried about making it right. Also that’s kind of the personality I have. I’m a very type-A person. I’m very scheduled and regimented and to have something like this happen, it was almost to the point where I just wanted to do whatever I could to show people my innocence, to the point where my wife had to tell me to take it easy.”
The first baseman has enjoyed a bounce-back season this year. A season after he hit just .218, Zimmerman has wielded one of the most potent bats in the National League. He entered Sunday hitting .368 with 15 home runs, which is as many as he hit last season, and 17 doubles.
In his libel suit, Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman must notify the court by June 28 of settlement progress .