On October 12, 2012, a federal jury in Virginia awarded Dr. Weihua Huang $819,830 in his False Claims Act suit which accused two University of Virginia administrators of retaliating against him when he blew the whistle on purported misuse of a federal research grant. In his suit, the former National Institute of Health (NIH) research grant recipient and University of Virginia scientist alleged that his supervisors declined to renew his contract because he had raised questions about the alleged misuse of research grant funds to his supervisors.
In 2009, Dr. Huang was awarded a NIH grant for research relating to the genetics of nicotine addiction and smoking. Dr. Huang claimed that grant funds were charged without authorization and for work that was never actually performed. After speaking out about the alleged misused of federal research funds, Dr. Huang’s supervisors terminated him citing performance issues.
According to Dr. Huang’s attorney, Adam Augustine Carter, “this case should encourage other whistleblowers that know of abuse in federal grants to come forward – while it may be tough for people to come forward in such situations, Dr. Huang’s courage has set an example.”
Dr. Huang’s recent jury award is of particular significance to whistleblowers as it is one of the only lawsuit tried to verdict since Congress amended the anti-retaliation provisions of the False Claims Act in 2009.
The presiding judge, Judge Norman K. Moon of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, has yet to determine whether or not to grant Dr. Huang’s reinstatement to his prior position or whether he will be compensated with his lost earnings.
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.