The University of Southern California (USC) is almost synonymous with legal troubles these days and this week, the revered university agreed to pay $50 million to the University of California, San Diego, to settle a highly unusual lawsuit over USC’s hiring of a world-class Alzheimer’s researcher away from San Diego.
UC San Diego filed the lawsuit in 2015 charging that USC and Alzheimer’s researcher Paul Aisen illegally agreed to attempt to take federal funding and research data from UC San Diego after Aisen accepted a lucrative position at USC. Aisen and UC San Diego disputed whether certain research grants were awarded to the university or to him. The original lawsuit also alleged that Aisen and USC attempted to take research data and employees with him in his move.
USC officials originally denied the allegations in 2015, saying they were “surprised and disappointed that the University of California, San Diego, elected to sue its departing faculty member and his team, as well as USC, rather than manage this transition collaboratively, as is the well-accepted custom and practice in academia.”
UCSD, in turn, said it was USC that had acted outside the bounds of normal practice, in which universities frequently woo researchers (and research teams) away from peers. Among other things, the lawsuit accused Aisen and USC of incorrectly telling UCSD employees that they might be out of a job if they didn’t follow him to USC, and of using some employees as “double agents” to try to get other employees and research funders to move with the project to USC.
Court documents claimed Aisen told potential sponsors of the research program that it would be moving to USC soon, after Aisen signed a deal that included a $100,000-per-year pay raise. Aisen resigned abruptly and refused to speak to his department chair about the transition and asked other employees to help him copy UC San Diego-owned data while claiming he owned it.
Just more proof that legal disputes are everywhere because we don’t always see the same things the exact same way. And when those nasty things like landlord/tenant matters, contract issues, nuisance ADA suits
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