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Whistleblower Claim Worth $112 Million to Proceed Against Duke and Researchers

A federal judge has ruled that a whistleblower lawsuit filed against Duke University and a pair of researchers can proceed.

The lawsuit alleges the university and researchers were able to secure $112 million in federal funding based on fraudulent work. The lawsuit was initially filed under the False Claims Act in 2013. If successful, it could cause the school to lose three times the amount of grant money it received, while entitling the whistleblower to tens of millions of dollars in awards.

Details of the lawsuit

The lawsuit implicates two researchers: Erin Potts-Kant and William Foster (Potts-Kant’s supervisor). The researchers and Duke University filed motions to dismiss the case in April, but a federal judge ultimately ruled the case would proceed.

Joseph Thomas, a former Duke University employee who worked in the university’s pulmonary division as a research analyst in the laboratory with Potts-Kant and Foster, filed the claim. Thomas alleges that Potts-Kant used a tool called a flexiVent machine to tailor the results of her experiments. In some cases, she deliberately did not expose mice to the medication, chemical or other exposure required by the experiments. In other cases, she allegedly altered the results to fit her purposes. Her papers later became the basis for successful grant applications totaling $112 million.

Potts-Kant was arrested in March 2013 after being accused of embezzling $14,000 from the university to fund her own personal spending sprees. She pleaded guilty and was forced to pay a fine, in addition to serving probation and performing mandatory community service.

The lawsuit also claims Foster and the university did not properly supervise the work of Potts-Kant in a way that would have prevented the fraud.

If you would like to explore your options for filing a whistleblower claim, contact a skilled and experienced Dallas attorney at Whistleblower Law for Managers.


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