Judge overturns $2.4M whistleblower retaliation verdict against AstraZeneca

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In the case of Suzanne Ivie, who sued AstraZeneca and worked for the company in Utah, the judge noted that she took a risk bringing her lawsuit in Oregon rather than Utah, which does not have the anti-retaliation or whistleblower protections for private-sector employees. (Getty Images)

After AstraZeneca and a former manager-turned-whistleblower each scored partial wins in a retaliation and age discrimination lawsuit, AstraZeneca has nabbed a victory in appeals.

In the case of Suzanne Ivie, who sued AstraZeneca alleging the company fired her after she raised concerns about off-label marketing, an appeals court has vacated a jury's $2.4 million verdict against the drugmaker.

This summer, a jury in Oregon ruled that AstraZeneca violated the state's whistleblower laws by firing Ivie after she reported alleged marketing misconduct. The jurors, however, rejected claims of age discrimination and didn't hold the company liable for alleged violations of the False Claims Act.

After the verdict, AstraZeneca's lawyers said in appeals that Ivie failed to meet the necessary threshold to prove violations of Oregon's whistleblower protection laws. Late last week, United States Magistrate Judge Jolie A. Russo agreed with the company's argument, writing that Ivie "failed to present facts required for the jury to find for plaintiff on the whistleblower protection claim." Judge Russo vacated the $2.4 million verdict against AstraZeneca.

RELATED: Ex-sales manager-turned-whistleblower takes AstraZeneca to court in retaliation trial set for next week

Ivie lived in Utah during the time she worked at AstraZeneca, Judge Russo pointed out. Therefore, she "took a calculated risk" bringing her lawsuit in Oregon rather than Utah, which "has no anti-retaliation or whistleblower protection statute applicable to private-sector employees," the judge wrote.

"Having taken that risk, she must now accept the consequence of having presented no Oregon evidence to prove her Oregon claim," Judge Russo added.

RELATED: Jury awards former AstraZeneca sales manager $2.4M in whistleblower retaliation case

In her suit, Ivie alleged that one of her former bosses at AstraZeneca pushed the team to promote certain medicines for uses that were not FDA-approved. When Ivie refused and raised concerns, a pattern of retaliation emerged, she claimed.

AstraZeneca's lawyer said Ivie was fired for failing to do the work expected of her as a district sales manager, Oregonlive reported. The company also said that the off-label allegations were "unsubstantiated."