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Whittemore Peterson Institute seek millions in damages from fired researcher

Discussion in 'General ME/CFS News' started by Firestormm, Feb 29, 2012.

  1. Firestormm


    Cornwall England
    Whittemore Peterson Institute seek millions in damages from fired researcher

    28 February 2012:

    Now that a judge has ruled in favor of the Whittemore Peterson Institute in a civil case against a researcher who took a laptop, notebooks and files after she was fired, the two sides are fighting over damages.

    The Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease made world headlines in 2009 after Dr. Judy Mikovits lead a team that discovered a new retrovirus that could help treat chronic fatigue syndrome. But the research was discredited last year and Mikovits lost her job. The institute claimed she stole important research materials when she left, a claim she denied.

    But Washoe District Judge Brent Adams signed a default judgment last month in favor of the institute, saying Mikovits failed to comply with his rulings on releasing materials in the case.

    A hearing on damages is expected this week. The institute is seeking millions in salary and research costs as well as lost donations, while Mikovits lawyer, Dennis Jones, said her actions did not cause any harm.

    Criminal charges against Mikovits are pending, said her criminal lawyer, Scott Freeman.

    At this point, Ms. Mikovits has returned all of the materials that she had in her possession and they all are in evidence in the criminal case, Freeman said. The only reason the civil case was filed was because she didnt give them up fast enough. But she has turned everything over.

    Meanwhile, the institute is defending itself against two lawsuits filed by the Wingfield Nevada Group, owned by Harvey Whittemores former partners. The suits claim the institute owes Wingfield $1.7 million for using its staff and a company jet.

    The lawsuits are just three on a list that Whittemore has been fighting in recent weeks. His former partners, Tom and Albert Seeno Jr. of Concord, Calif., claim he embezzled funds from Wingfield, while Whittemore claims in another suit that the Seenos are guilty of racketeering. Two banks also sued Whittemore for millions in unpaid loans. And a federal grand jury is reportedly meeting Wednesday to hear testimony on Whittemores campaign contribution activities.

    Following the judges ruling on the claim against Mikovits, the institutes lawyer, Tom Bowen, filed a list of documents in preparation for a hearing on damages, which indicates they want to be refunded all costs associated with Mikovits work.

    One document shows Mikovits was paid $693,485 since starting with the institute in 2007. Another lists research costs totaling $2.3 million and grant reimbursements that came to $655,838. The documents also claim the institute saw a drop in donations of $133,100 after Mikovits left.

    Bowen also submitted copies of emails between Mikovits and various colleagues as well as a statement by Max Pfost, who worked with Mikovits at the institute. After she was fired, she directed Pfost to go into her office and collect her materials, he said.

    I expressed some skepticism to Mikovits about whether she could take the research and samples and stated that Dr. (Vince) Lombardi would take over the projects and continue on behalf of WPI, Pfost said in the affidavit. Mikovits stated that she was in charge of the research at WPI so technically it was her research and she could move it somewhere else at any time.

    Pfost said he went to WPI on Sept. 30 and took between 12 and 20 notebooks for Mikovits. He gave them to Mikovits on Oct. 16, he said, and then she drove to Southern California.

    Mikovits informed me that she was hiding out on a boat to avoid being served with papers from WPI, Pfost said in the affidavit. She was arrested Nov. 18 in Ventura, Calif., after the Washoe County District Attorneys office filed a criminal complaint alleging she stole computer data.

    Mikovits lawyer filed a trial statement last week in the WPI case asking the judge to ignore the list of costs associated with salary and research when considering damages in the case.

    WPI does not allege that Dr. Mikovits did anything to harm WIP while she was employed, the statement said. All of the alleged tortious conduct occurred after WPI terminated Dr. Mikovits.

    It also said that people who decided to stop making donations to the institute did so only after Mikovits was fired. To support that claim, Jones attached 20 emails from former supporters who said they opposed the firing and would no longer make donations to the institute.

    I would like to explain why I ceased donating to the Whittemore Peterson Institute, said Paul Kayes in one email. He said he donated every month but when Dr. Mikovits was sacked he said he lost faith with WPI and decided he would no longer support the institute.

    Another former donor, Annabel Luery, said the Whittemores were to blame for WPI problems.

    If the WPI is suffering from a lack of revenue then it is because of the actions of the Whittemores and certainly not because of anything Dr. Mikovits either said or did, Luery said in an email to Mikovits lawyer.
  2. Otis

    Otis SeƱor Mumbler

    What a disaster. Even if the WPI is "right" (not that I'm saying that!) this further alienates patients and researchers. This has always been a field that was a chancy career choice. We don't need this press. I can't see the WPI gaining anything here and the community gets hurt no matter what.

    justy, Bob and CJB like this.
  3. Snow Leopard

    Snow Leopard Hibernating

    South Australia
    Agreed, the sooner this is over the better. This extra press doesn't help our case (lack of research) at all.
  4. The End for the institute, no doubt.
  5. Bob


    England (south coast)
  6. Enid

    Enid Senior Member

    They are no longer scientists.

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