Blood Lab Whistleblowers Awarded $1.6 Million

     SAN DIEGO (CN) — After a five-week trial, a state jury Thursday awarded $1.6 million to whistleblowers who said a San Diego-area plasma laboratory ignored their instructions to follow safety regulations.
     Jurors awarded former Scantibodies Laboratory employees Jeanette Nolasco $471,777 and Brenda Taylor $460,515, for retaliation, and another $375,000 each in punitive damages.
     Scantibodies, of El Cajon, hired Nolasco and Taylor in 2009 to get a new plasma collection center, Scantibodies Biologics, up and running.
     Two types of plasma were collected, but Scantibodies did not have the proper license to collect specialty plasma, or disease-state plasma, which requires a special FDA license to collect, sell and distribute.
     Scantibodies claimed it collected “specialty plasma” for “research use only,” which would not have required FDA approval. But Nolasco and Taylor said they found out the plasma was being sent to another Scantibodies location, where the “research use only” label was scraped off and replaced with “research or manufacturer use.”
     Types of specialty plasma collected included samples provided by HIV-positive donors who believed their plasma would be used to find a cure for the virus, the plaintiffs said.
     At trial both women said that just one sale of specialty plasma sold for more than $1 million, though no evidence was produced for that aside from the testimony of another former Scantibodies employee, Shannon Coates.
     Nolasco broke down in tears as the verdicts were read. The jury was unanimous on most items on the lengthy verdict form, but confusion over a few questions caused Superior Court Judge Gregory Pollack to send them back to deliberate.
     Because the jurors found Scantibodies had committed fraud with malice, they had to decide phase two of the verdict form, on punitive damages.
     Scantibodies employee Marina Bradley testified that the company had a net worth of more than $72 million in 2015.
     In her closing argument, Nolasco and Taylor’s attorney Clarice Letizia told the jury that Scantibodies is “insulting your intelligence” by claiming that a damages award could cause the company to lay off employees.
     “You have the power to send a message not only to the defendant, but to the defendant’s industry to deter future misconduct,” Letizia said.
     Outside the courtroom, juror Erica Glennon said she felt there was a “willful decision” by Scantibodies upper management to ignore Nolasco and Taylor’s advice about the license.
     She said an email in which Nolasco asked her manager to send her question to an FDA compliance officer — which he did not — highlighted the intentional.
     Glennon said she was “disgusted” that Taylor’s harassment claims were not investigated by the company’s director of human resources.
     “Nobody goes to an HR director to ‘vent.’ That’s the biggest load of crap. Management by fear seemed to be how things were done,” Glennon said.
     Attorney Letizia said she’s glad the case is over.
     “We went through so many years of ‘We’ve done nothing wrong.’ I’m just glad the truth is out,” Letizia said.
     Both Nolasco and Taylor said the case was not about money.
     “It was about doing the right thing. We were looking out for the company. If they had gone the right way, they would be where they want to be right now,” Nolasco said.
     Taylor said she “hopes the people they tricked into thinking the plasma would be for research find out” that Scantibodies “took advantage of the sick.”
     Scantibodies attorney Vince Verde declined to comment, other than to say, “The case is not really over.”

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