GALVESTON – A veterinarian fired from the University of Texas Medical Branch in 2015, allegedly after he spoke out about monkeys allowed to needlessly suffer during biomedical research, has filed a second lawsuit over his dismissal.
Dr. Brian Gordon claims in his lawsuit filed March 21 in Galveston County's 10th District Court that he witnessed and reported treatment of test-subject animals at the university that were a violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
"Dr. Gordon repeatedly complained about practices of veterinary care that did not minimize pain and suffering to the animals and otherwise do not constitute adequate veterinary care," Gordon's latest lawsuit says. "Practices that do not minimize pain and suffering and otherwise do not constitute adequate veterinary care violate the AWA. Dr. Gordon reported these practices including the violations of the AWA because of his personal ethical interest in protecting animals from suffering including painful death."
Gordon was fired after reporting those alleged violations, which he claims amounted to wrongful termination under the Texas Whistleblower Act.
Gordon, who now lives in Belmont, North Carolina, is suing the university and his former supervisor, Toni D’Agostino, seeking between $200,000 and $1 million in the case. Gordon also claims defendants in the case acted with oppression and malice to intimidate him into alleged illegal activity at the university.
"The acts and omissions of defendants complained of herein were committed with malice or reckless indifference to the protected rights of plaintiff," the lawsuit says. "Plaintiff is, thus, entitled to exemplary damages in an amount sufficient to deter defendants from such wrongful conduct in the future."
Gordon's March lawsuit follows a similar case he filed against the University of Texas Medical Branch more than a year ago. In that lawsuit, Gordon claimed he'd been wrongfully fired in June 2015 for blowing the whistle on University researchers allowing animals being experimented upon to needlessly suffer. His firing and older lawsuit followed a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases investigation into the university's study in which auditors discovered that eight monkeys died painful deaths because established procedures had not been followed.
Gordon was an attending veterinarian and executive director when he was fired, according to court documents. He had worked more than two years for the university and was the highest-ranked veterinarian on staff in a job that included oversight of thousands of animals, including primates, used in research at the university's medical branch, according to statements made by one of his attorneys last year.
A U.S. District Court judge in Galveston dismissed that case in February, saying defendants in the case are protected by sovereign immunity and that Gordon had failed to address several required elements necessary in his claim. "Where he does, his allegations are conclusory and vague," District Court Judge George C. Hanks Jr. said in that decision. "The dearth of factual content does not allow the court to infer a plausible claim for relief."