United States v. Arora

860 F.Supp. 1091 (1994)


Prince Kumar Arora (D) joined NIH as a Visiting Fellow in the Laboratory of Immunodiagnosis at the National Cancer Institute. D conducted research in immunology, collaborated with other scientists, published his research in scientific journals, and supervised and trained younger researchers working in his laboratories. In 1987, Dr. Phil Skolnick, Chief of the Laboratory of Neuroscience in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), invited D to conduct immunology research at that institute. From approximately 1987 through 1992, D pursued his research at NIDDK, publishing papers, editing articles for scientific journals, collaborating with other scientists, and continuing his supervision of younger scientists working in the laboratory. D hired a post-doctoral student from Japan, Dr. Yoshitatsu Sei. Dr. Sei was free to engage in collaborative projects with other researchers without D's involvement. Dr. Sei, who had special expertise in cell culturing, joined Dr. Skolnick and Dr. Garry Wong in a pioneering research project designed to study the immune properties of certain cell receptors. The purpose of the project was to attempt to develop, through a complex method, a brand-new line of cells which could be transfected into human cells, which could then be cloned into a sufficient number of the newly created cell line. The cell line, if successful, would have significant implications for studies of alcohol, Alzheimer's disease, neurotoxicity, and -- in the words of Dr. Wong -- 'just about anything that has to do with regulation of brain cells.' Relations between D and Dr. Sei began to sour. Dr. Sei became disturbed when he felt D was claiming senior authorship on a paper involving AIDS research that Dr. Sei felt D had not really participated in. His distress increased when D and not Dr. Sei was invited to present the results of the research at an international conference on AIDS. When Dr. Sei confronted D about Dr. Arora's use of Dr. Sei's research materials without permission, D apologized, but relations failed to improve. Relations continued to deteriorate when D was accused by a young female research assistant of sexual harassment and D was replaced by Dr. Sei as her new mentor without any determination of the claims by the female. Suddenly the Alpha 1-4 cells, as well as other cells, were dying or damaged. They began to suspect tampering. They set a trap and evidence showed that D had entered the building on the night of March 18. When, on March 27, more Alpha 1-4 cells were discovered dead or heavily damaged, and the entry card key system showed D as an off-hours visitor on March 25, Dr. Skolnick reported the suspected sabotage to the NIH police. They then set up a trap monitored by police. The evidence clearly pointed to D as the culprit. Four fingerprints on the flasks in the fake experiment matched those of D. D was terminated from his employment at NIH effective April 14, 1992. P filed this civil suit against D, claiming compensatory and punitive damages for what it alleged was his conversion of or trespass against its property.