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GC's $8 Million Whistleblower Verdict Upheld by Appeals Court

By William Vogeler, Esq. on March 01, 2019 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A federal appeals court upheld a nearly $8 million award for an in-house lawyer who blew the whistle on his employer.

Sanford Wadler won his wrongful termination case in 2017, and an $11 million verdict that included $5 million in punitive damages against Bio-Rad Laboratories. Wadler said he was fired for reporting his company's possible violation of foreign bribery law.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment, except for $2.98 million based on a questionable jury instruction and a change in the law.

Jury Instructions

Bio-Rad said it fired Wadler for poor performance, but forensics showed a critical job review was created a month after his termination. The appeal in Wadler v. Bio-Rad Laboratories turned on the jury instructions.

The appeals panel upheld part of the verdict on public policy grounds. At the same time, however, the judges remanded on an instruction about whether Wadler engaged in a protected activity.

The ABA Journal reported the law was in flux between the jury award and the appeal. The Ninth Circuit overturned a doubling of $2.96 million of the award because of an intervening decision in whistleblower law.

Kathleen Sullivan, an attorney for Bio-Rad, said the company was pleased with the reduction in the award. She said the company is evaluating its legal options.

Another Problem

It is not the only legal problem at Bio-Rad, which makes devices for medical diagnoses and testing. In a separate matter, the company paid the federal government $55 million to settle bribery allegations and other issues in Vietnam, Thailand, and Russia.

In that case, Wadler had recommended the company investigate the issues 2009. The company fired him in 2013, and settled the government case in 2014.

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