The University of California Davis has withdrawn its appeal and will pay a former administrative nurse $1.7 million to resolve a whistleblower retaliation case that has been in litigation for more than five years.
Former UC Davis administrative research nurse Janet Keyzer sued the university in 2010 in Sacramento Superior Court, alleging it unlawfully retaliated against her for repeatedly voicing concerns to her superiors that the research project on which she was working, which evaluated pain diagnosis and treatment among disabled state prisoners, did not meet research requirements and ethical standards involving human subjects.
Soon after she began expressing her concerns, Ms. Keyzer found herself “ostracized” by university administrators, while the project manager became “hostile, abusive and rude” to her, her complaint stated.
Her then-husband, Ken, an information technology specialist working on the same project, was fired after an investigation, triggered by her complaint, began. Ms. Keyzer contended the university fired her husband as punishment for her speaking out, a move she claimed was also meant to intimidate her.
The same month that Ms. Keyzer’s husband was fired, the Institutional Review Board issued the prison research project a cease and desist order, shutting it down. The Board then took a series of corrective actions that included suspending the principal investigator’s current studies, suspending that official’s status and title, establishing a mandatory training program, and referring the matter to the Academic Personnel Office.
Ms. Keyzer, a nurse for three decades with a Ph.D. in human and community development, alleged in her lawsuit that UC Davis’s retaliatory actions destroyed her career.
She offered to settle the lawsuit in 2012 for $800,000, but the university declined and the case went to trial. In August of last year, the four-week trial ended with California jury siding with Ms. Keyzer and awarding her $730,000.
The University of California Davis appealed the decision, but withdrew its appeal last week and paid Ms. Keyzer $1.7 million to resolve the case.
Although UC Davis has not commented on its withdrawal of the appeal, the Davis Enterprise asked Ms. Keyzer’s attorney about the move.
“The university appealed that verdict,” Ms. Keyzer’s attorney told the Enterprise. “It went to the Court of Appeal, and UCD hired outside counsel, a specialist in appellate law.” According to the Enterprise, she then speculated that the outside appellate lawyer reviewed the appeal and advised the university against pursuing it.