LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer sued The Athletic and former reporter Molly Knight on Tuesday, accusing them of "creating and spreading the false narrative" that he had fractured a woman's skull during a sexual encounter.
The 26-page complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles against The Athletic Media Co. and Knight, alleges two counts of defamation.
A woman obtained a protection order against Bauer under California's Domestic Violence Prevention Act last June as the result of an alleged assault that left the woman with "severe physical and emotional pain," said Marc Garelick, the woman's attorney.
Los Angeles prosecutors said in February they decided not to charge Bauer, determining there was insufficient evidence to win a conviction.
The Athletic reported last June 30 that "there were signs of a basilar skull fracture," citing a declaration by the woman.
The lawsuit says "CT scan results included in the medical records attached to the complainant's declaration and possessed by The Athletic definitively concluded that she had 'no acute fracture.'"
Athletic spokesman Taylor Patterson said in an email: "We are aware of legal action taken by Trevor Bauer. We're confident in our reporting and plan to defend against the claim."
Knight did not immediately respond to an email sent to an address on her website. She announced she was leaving The Athletic on July 30, 2021.
In a video posted on YouTube in February, Bauer said of the woman who obtained a protection order against him: "The disturbing acts and conduct that she described simply did not occur."
The lawsuit claims The Athletic and Knight defamed Bauer "by creating and spreading the false narrative that Mr. Bauer fractured the complainant's skull. There was no basis for that assertion because the complainant's own medical records -- which The Athletic possessed -- showed that she had no such fracture. Nonetheless, consistent with their prior and subsequent expressions of animus toward Mr. Bauer, The Athletic and Ms. Knight publicized that false attack.
"Defendants acted with actual malice because they deliberately ignored the truth -- which was evident in the medical records possessed by The Athletic -- and because the defendants' defamatory statements were part of a campaign to harass Mr. Bauer," the lawsuit said. The suit alleged The Athletic posted a link to the story on its Twitter account and Knight amplified "the inaccurate claim" on Twitter.
The lawsuit said The Athletic, after being contacted by Bauer's lawyer, published an update that said, "Trevor 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." The lawsuit said that "was insufficient and inaccurate" and that "an emergency room physician observed that the complainant presented with indications of a possible basilar skull fracture, which was ruled out by the only CT scans the woman had."
Bauer sued G/O Media, the parent company of Deadspin, and Deadspin managing editor Chris Baud on March 3 in federal court in Manhattan, alleging they defamed him when Deadspin reported on July 6 that "an initial CT scan ... showed a fracture."
Bauer was placed on administrative leave last July 2 under the joint domestic violence and sexual assault policy of Major League Baseball and the players' association. The leave has been repeatedly extended and currently runs through April 16.
After winning his first Cy Young Award with the Cincinnati Reds in 2020, Bauer agreed to a $102 million, three-year contract to join his hometown Dodgers. He did not pitch after June 29 and finished with an 8-2 record and a 2.59 ERA in 17 appearances. He was paid his $28 million salary last year.
ESPN does not typically identify people who say they have been victims of sexual assault.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.