Scientist Wins Whistle-Blower Suit Vs. Pfizer

Apr 2 2010

As it appeared in The Associated Press

By Yvonne Nava |  Friday, Apr 2, 2010  |  Updated 8:45 AM EST

Three, years ago, Becky McClain, of Deep River, went after Pfizer, saying a genetically engineered infectious virus had infected her. On Thursday, the scientist was awarded $1.37 million in what is being called a major victory for biotech lab workers.

She says she suffered poor health after another scientist failed to use proper containment while working with an AIDS-like virus, the Day of New London reports, and was fired for “raising lab safety concerns.”

In her complaint, McClain argued that her free speech rights were violated and that she should have been protected under whistle-blower laws.

“I was very pleased the jury found that Pfizer did retaliate against me for speaking about unsafe conditions at the Groton lab and for making a report to OSHA,” McClain told the Day. “I am disappointed, however, that I have not yet received exposure records from Pfizer,” that she says could have identified the virus she was exposed to and provided an avenue for determining proper medical care.

On Thursday, a U.S District Court jury inHartford sided with her. They awarded her $1.37 million, but that amount could increase because the jury decided to also award punitive damages.

Still, Pfizer denies any wrongdoing and says McClain only raised concerns after she was fired in 2005 for refusing to come to work.

“We are disappointed with the verdict and do not believe the facts of this case warrant the conclusion reached by the jury,” Pfizer said in an e-mailed statement. “Pfizer is committed to protecting the health and safety of our colleagues and the communities in which we operate.”

The company is reviewing Thursday’s verdict and is considering an appeal.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut



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