Keyzer Gets $1.7 Million from UC in Whistleblower Retaliation Case

Janet Keyzer Attorneys
Attorneys for Janet Kezyer in 2014/ Courtsey Photo

This week the University of California issued checks totaling nearly $1.7 million to settle claims brought by Janet Keyzer in her whistleblower retaliation case against UC Davis. This brings to a close her seven-year battle for justice. Ms. Keyzer was terminated in 2007 after exposing human subject research being conducted without requisite legal compliance.

Represented by the Law Office of Mary-Alice Coleman through the seven years of litigation after her termination, Janet Keyzer was forced to oppose three Motions to Strike, two Demurrers, a Motion for Summary Judgment, a Motion to Dismiss, a Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict, and a Motion for New Trial. Ms. Keyzer also had to scratch and claw for every scrap of evidence and testimony, and was further forced to file two Motions to Compel Further Interrogatory Responses, a Motion to Compel Further Document Production, a Motion to Compel Depositions, a Motion to Continue the Trial Date (because of late-produced evidence), and a Motion to Reopen Discovery (because of new information).

In mid-2014, Ms. Keyzer went to trial on a single cause of action for whistleblower retaliation in violation of Government Code § 8547.10. Shortly before trial commenced, Lawrance Bohm, Esq., of the Bohm Law Group was hired to try the case after the Regents took the unusual defense tactic of identifying Ms. Keyzer’s long-time attorney, Mary-Alice Coleman, as a trial witness.

At trial, a current University manager testified that a named official in the Offices of the Chancellor and Provost confided that she felt it was likely true that Ms. Keyzer was being singled out for retaliation. Evidence also showed that, prior to litigation, University managers sent written instructions not to communicate by email regarding Ms. Keyzer because “email is discoverable” in a lawsuit. After the three-week trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Ms. Keyzer. The University appealed.

In late 2015, the University agreed to withdraw its appeal of the verdict and settle Ms. Keyzer’s claims for nearly $1.7 million. In early 2012, Ms. Keyzer’s formal offer to settle the litigation for $800,000 was rejected outright.

The Vanguard has covered this case since 2009.

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  1. Tia Will

    Thanks for the update David. I see this as a cautionary tale based on our adversarial culture. I am very familiar from 30 years in medicine with the culture of denial, obfuscation, stonewalling and retaliation which has shown great improvement over the past few years, but which still has profound impacts.

    Think what a different and less costly outcome would have been achieved had the perpetrators of this fiasco said the equivalent of the following, “Yes, we made a mistake. Ms. Kayser is correct in having pointed it out. These are the steps that we plan to take to remedy the situation.” Or assuming they felt that she was incorrect, simply not retaliating. Imagine how 7 years worth of expensive wheel spinning could have been avoided and everyone’s efforts directed to something that might have actually resulted in positive outcomes instead of lying and covering up using every legal technicality available to defend what was clearly wrong.

    1. Anon

      Tia, the object of the game for UC is to wear the plaintiff out, emotionally, physically and financially, in the hopes that after enough time, the plaintiff will give up and go away, and not achieve a “win”.  Most plaintiffs cannot withstand such a concerted onslaught by a defendant with such deep pockets and expert lawyers.

      1. David Greenwald

        WHole true today, it took nine years to resolve and it cost her a lot. I would want to hope there would have been a better way to do this. All of this started because they did not do proper protocol to test prison inmates at San Quentin. And instead of fixing the problem may try to get rid of her. This was in clear violation of whistleblower retaliation protections. Then they dragged it on another year after a jury verdict ended up costing them another million dollars.

  2. Frankly

    Lawyers make the laws (most politicians at the state and federal level are lawyers).  They make laws that create profiting opportunities for… lawyers!  Lawyers reap the benefits, and taxpayers pay the price.

    1. hpierce

      Some STATS:

      Attorneys in CA… licensure began 1919…  over 305,000 licensed since…

      Civil engineers in CA… licensure began 1929…  just under 87,000 licensed since…

      Land surveyors in CA… licensure began in 1891… ~ 9,200 licensed since…

      Shows CA priorities? Society’s priorities?

      1. Frankly

        My brother was bummed that the water level at Folsom lake dropped too low to launch his fishing boat.  I suggested we round up half the lawyers in Sacramento and drop them in to raise the water level.  My brother correctly replied that this might put too much pressure on the dam.

        1. hpierce

          And even if not too much pressure, the water would not be suitable for boating, fishing, much less drinking.  Might make it a “super-fund” site.

          Which the lawyers remaining would litigate for years!

        2. Frankly

          I think we might be ready to take this comedy show on the road!

          We need to do it quick though, because I expect attorney-lawmakers to move to protect lawyers from ridicule with new hate speech laws.

  3. Paul Thober

    For David: It would be interesting to investigate and find out what the outcome was for the researchers who were not following correct protocol, those that retaliated against Ms. Keyser and those that decided to fight this thing for years and years. Just a wild guess that they all continued to be employed by the university, recieving their merit increases and promotions as if nothing happened. Further, it would be nice to know what this cost the university in addition to the $1,700,000.00 payout to Ms. Keyser and the attorneys representing her.

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