Legacy Health sued for whistleblower retaliation

Two former employees who exposed problems in the body donor program take research institute to court.

Share this article!


Two former employees who exposed problems in the body donor program are taking Legacy Research Institute to court for retaliation.

The Portland Tribune reports:

One of the former employees also claims she was told to shred program documents after a May 2014 FBI subpoena was issued as part of a nationwide investigation into human body donations. The FBI’s Detroit Division looked into Legacy’s records and donation program as it was investigating five national human tissue labs in Illinois, Michigan and Arizona.

Jirina Truneckova of San Francisco and Danielle Martin of Portland filed the lawsuit Monday in Multnomah County Circuit Court against Legacy Emanuel Hospital and Health Center and the Legacy Research Institute, seeking more than $400,000 for what they said were violations of the state’s whistleblower protection law, retaliation and “unlawful discrimination.” Truneckova is seeking at least $250,000, including lost wages and benefits. Martin is seeking $200,000, along with back pay and lost benefits. They both plan to ask for punitive damages if the case goes to trial.

In a statement, Brian S. Terrett, Legacy spokesman, said: “The FBI reviewed the Legacy Health Body Donation program last year. A number of recommendations, mainly about paperwork, were made by the FBI. Legacy quickly adopted those recommendations and the Body Donation program is currently in operation. Given this, Legacy Health is uncertain why any former employee would continue to make unsubstantiated allegations, and is confident that it will prevail in court.”

The Portland Business Journal expands on the details of the case:

Legacy told Truneckova the program was in its early stages and she’d be responsible “for developing standards to ensure that the program followed acceptable industry standards and applicable laws,” the lawsuit states. That would include implementing procedures to ensure that Legacy properly screened donated bodies to protect staff from communicable diseases: “However, it soon became apparent that (Legacy) was more interested in cheaply acquiring cadavers than in operating in a manner consistent with the guidelines” set forth by various organizations, the lawsuit says.

It alleges that Truneckova’s supervisor, Dr. Gregory Timmel, stopped her from developing a screening procedure, telling her that Crown Funeral Home would screen them. She expressed concerns about the arrangement numerous times because Legacy hadn’t provided such training to Crown’s staff and Legacy’s program materials “gave the false impression that Legacy screened donated bodies,” the suit says. She was also concerned that failing to properly screen donated bodies put employees at risk.