Last week a federal jury in Virginia awarded an $819,000 verdict to Dr. Weihua Huang in his False Claims Act suit alleging that two University of Virginia administrators retaliated against him for reporting what he believed was misuse of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) research grant.
According to Dr. Huang’s lawsuit, two University of Virginia administrators declined to review Huang’s contract after he raised questions about the alleged misuse of NIH research funds. The jury awarded Dr. Huang, a former genetics and addiction researcher in UVA’s Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Science, $500,000 in compensatory damages and approximately $320,000 in wages he lost after he was retaliated against for blowing the whistle.
Dr. Huang’s attorney, Adam Augustine Carter of The Employment Law Group® law firm, told Law360 that the case represented a significant victory for False Claims Act whistleblowers at research institutions who receive federal grant funding.
Mr. Carter told Law360 that “this case should encourage other whistleblowers that are seeing abuse in federal grants to come forward” and that while “it is tough for people to come forward in such situations, Dr. Huang’s courage has set an example for whistleblowers.”
Additionally, according to Mr. Carter, the case “should act as a reminder to institutions that they may not retaliate against whistleblowers who question the alleged misuse of federal grant money.”
Such whistleblowers, he noted, hold federal funds in trust and “employees who engage in protected activity or who question the way the funds are distributed or used cannot be retaliated against.”
The article, entitled “UVA Whistleblower Nets Award In FCA Suit Over Health Grant”, originally appeared in the October 16, 2012 edition of Law360.
The Employment Law Group® law firm’s whistleblower attorneys have helped many clients file suit against employers that fraudulently bill the U.S. government, and have established favorable precedents under the retaliation provision of the False Claims Act.