Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer filed a defamation lawsuit against The Athletic and a reporter, alleging that they misled readers by intentionally omitting information in reports about a sexual assault allegation against him last year.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for Central California, accused The Athletic and its former writer Molly Knight of a harassment campaign to malign him. Bauer alleges that the sports website had access to his accuser's medical records and intentionally omitted that CT scans showed she did not suffer a fractured skull.
Law enforcement officials investigated Bauer after a woman filed a request for a restraining order under a domestic violence prevention law last year. She accused Bauer of becoming violent during sexual encounters at his home in Pasadena.
He has denied assaulting the woman, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges.
In her request for the restraining order, the woman, who said she met him through Instagram, accused Bauer of choking her until she lost consciousness, repeatedly punching her and giving her injuries that required hospitalization.
The district attorney's office declined to press charges after it failed to come up with a case that would prove relevant charges "beyond a reasonable doubt," prosecutors said last month.
“I never assaulted her in any way at any time,” Bauer said in a video statement at the time. “While we did have consensual rough sex, the disturbing acts and conduct that she described simply did not occur.”
Bauer focused in his suit on what he described as misrepresentations of the facts of her allegations in his defamation complaint.
As of Wednesday, The Athletic article says it was updated after Bauer's representatives "emphasized that medical records showed that while the woman was initially diagnosed with signs of a basilar skull fracture, a subsequent CT scan found no acute fracture."
According to Bauer’s suit, The Athletic published the article based on documents that were filed for the restraining order, which included medical documents, "yet made no mention that the results of those scans were negative" for a fracture after it said she had signs of one.
The Athletic's article "led to a proliferation of articles and tweets referencing a nonexistent skull fracture," according to the complaint.
The Athletic said in a statement that it was aware of Bauer's legal action.
"We’re confident in our reporting and plan to defend against the claim," it said.
Bauer further alleges that Knight, whose LinkedIn account says she was a writer for The Athletic until July, tweeted false claims that he had fractured the women's skull.
According to the lawsuit, Knight tweeted on July 2 that it was not possible to "consent to a fractured skull."
"That tweet concerned Mr. Bauer because it responded to two prior messages from other Twitter users about the allegations against Mr. Bauer," the suit said.
The suit alleges that Knight then tweeted: "There seems to be some confusion surrounding the issue of consent but here is some clarity: it’s not possible to consent to a cracked skull."
Knight did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.
Bauer asserts that Knight's alleged tweets and The Athletic's decision to omit the full results of the CT scans gave readers a "reasonable understanding" that the woman sustained a skull fracture. That impression, the suit says, severely damaged Bauer's reputation.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1964 that a public figure must prove "actual malice" in defamation suits, proving that a publisher acted with reckless disregard of the truth or knowledge of a statement's falsity.
The lawsuit states that The Athletic's history of publishing what it describes as "negative" articles about Bauer and the omission of the scan results meet the actual malice standard.
It also says Knight had access to "publicly available" documents that disproved her tweets about a fractured skull but acted with actual malice by publishing them anyway, the suit said.