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#pounditFriday, May 7, 2021

Joe West wins defamation suit against Paul Lo Duca for easiest reason

MLB umpire Joe West has won a defamation lawsuit against former catcher Paul Lo Duca, and it sounds like West’s legal team had a fairly easy time convincing the judge to rule in their favor.

New York Supreme Court Justice John J. Kelley issued his decision Monday to award West $500,000 in damages plus interest dating back to July 8. In the suit, which was filed in October 2019, West said Lo Duca claimed during an April 18, 2019, podcast on The Action Network that the catcher was ejected 15 times during his major league career and eight or nine were by West. It took very little effort for West to prove those claims were inaccurate.

West’s suit stated that Lo Duca was ejected eight times during his career and only once by West. Lo Duca also claimed that he was catching a game for former New York Mets pitcher Billy Wagner against the Philadelphia Phillies in 2006 or 2007 and that West called three straight batters out on strikes. Lo Duca said Wagner told him the reason West gave the pitcher the calls was that Wagner had allowed West to take his 1957 Chevy for a spin.

That story was apparently made up as well. West proved in his suit that he only worked one Mets-Phillies game as the home plate umpire between 2006 and 2007, and Wagner did not pitch in it.

Here is some of the explanation for Kelley’s ruling.

“The court credits the plaintiff’s testimony that one’s integrity and character are primary measures that are applied to the assessment of an umpire’s or player’s quality and, thus, the consideration that he will be given for election to, and induction into, the Hall of Fame,” Kelley wrote, according to The Associated Press. “The plaintiff expressed a legitimate concern that, if Hall of Fame voters credited Lo Duca’s false assertion regarding his integrity and character, he might not be elected for induction into the Hall of Fame for the same reasons as otherwise excellent players ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson, Pete Rose, and Barry Bonds had or have not been elected.”

West was awarded $250,000 for “past mental anguish and emotional distress” and another $250,000 to use toward retaining a public relations firm to repair his reputation.

It would not be a surprise if Lo Duca had numerous disagreements with West, as the 66-year-old umpire has been accused of treating players poorly in the past. However, Lo Duca clearly made up stories about West to prove a point. Whether he misremembered or lied is irrelevant in the eyes of the court, as evidenced by the ruling.

Photo: Keith Allison/Flickr via cc-by-SA 2.0

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