LOS ANGELES (CN) - A former executive with The American Humane Association claims in court that the group "bowed to political and financial pressure" by not reporting the HBO series "Luck" for abusing racehorses.
Barbara Casey sued The American Humane Association, The American Humane Association of California, Home Box Office, and Stewart Productions in Superior Court.
Casey claims she lost her job as director of production in the Humane Association's film and TV unit after complaining about mistreatment of horses on "Luck."
"Luck," produced by nonparties Michael Mann and David Milch, ran for just one season after several horses died during production.
The show starred Dustin Hoffman as a mobster fresh out of prison, bent on controlling Santa Anita racetrack, and delivering payback to those he blamed for his prison time.
Hoffman is not a party to the complaint.
According to Casey, "in order to save time and money," producers of the show drugged horses to perform, used sick and underweight animals, and misidentified horses to conceal their medical histories.
Four horses were killed during production, Casey says, including a retired and sick racehorse.
After a fourth horse was killed, in March 2012, "Luck" was canceled, Casey says in the complaint.
The lawsuit identifies three horses killed in the making of the series: Outlaw Yodeler, Marc's Shadow, and Hometrader. The fourth horse is not named.
Casey claims the American Humane Association told its representatives not to document Hometrader's death because the horse died while the show was on summer hiatus. And she claims the group ignored her repeated requests to notify authorities.
"Plaintiff urged AHA [American Humane Association] to report the production defendants' criminal animal abuse and animal cruelty to government and/or law enforcement," the complaint states. "AHA bowed to political and financial pressure and refused to report the production defendants' conduct to the authorities. AHA instructed plaintiff not to report such conduct. AHA engaged in efforts to conceal and cover up the production defendants' criminal activities."
Casey claims the Association, encouraged by the producers, fired her to stop her from reporting the abuses.
"Luck" was renewed for a second season before the racehorse died in March 2012.
Casey seeks costs and punitive damages for wrongful firing, Labor Code violations and aiding and abetting.
She is represented by Howard Rutten of Studio City.
HBO spokeswoman Karen Jones told Courthouse News in an email: "We took every precaution to ensure that our horses were treated humanely and with the utmost care, exceeding every safeguard of all protocols and guidelines required of the production. Barbara Casey was not an employee of HBO, and any questions regarding her employment should be directed to the AHA."
The American Humane Association said it had not been served with the lawsuit and declined to comment.