Lubbock County Medical Examiner facing whistleblower lawsuit

Lubbock County Medical Examiner facing whistleblower lawsuit

LUBBOCK COUNTY, TX (KCBD) - On Wednesday, the former Lubbock County Deputy Medical Examiner filed a lawsuit under the Texas Whistleblower Act.

Dr. Luisa Florez said she was wrongfully terminated on Friday, Aug. 14 after she reported illegal activity taking place at the Lubbock County Medical Examiner's Office.

She filed a lawsuit against Lubbock County, Lubbock County Commissioners, the Lubbock County Medical Examiner's Office and the Lubbock County Medical Examiner himself.

Dr. Florez said she reported multiple violations of the law to county commissioners and the district attorney's office, but no changes were made.

She has now hired a Houston-based attorney and is seeking more than one million dollars in relief and a jury trial.

"The medical examiner tried to, tried to muzzle Dr. Florez by firing her. I can promise you that didn't work," said Houston-based attorney Michael Kerensky.

Kerensky said his client, Dr. Florez, followed the whistleblower statutes by reporting what she believed to be illegal activity at the Lubbock County Medical Examiner's Office to the appropriate authorities.

"Instead of investigating that illegal activity, they started investigating her, and harassing her, and retaliating against her, and finally they have terminated her for reasons that are untrue," Kerensky said.

In the lawsuit, Dr. Florez lists several illegal activities like Lubbock County Medical Examiner Dr. Sridhar Natarajan backdating autopsy reports, allowing autopsies to be completed by unqualified technicians and altering Dr. Florez's final autopsy reports without her knowledge or consent.

"The reason I reported is because what we do as medical examiners is very important. We go to court to testify on our findings and the job we do has to be done professionally, correctly and within the law. If we go to court and the rules have not been followed, we risk sending a person who is innocent to jail to be convicted or allowing a guilty part to walk free," Dr. Florez said.

On Thursday, Dr. Florez received a letter of termination effective on Friday from the human resources director. The reason? "Unacceptable performance issue and insubordination".

In October of last year, Dr. Florez received a positive evaluation from Dr. Natarajan and a recommendation for a $17,000 raise. In a letter to justify a change in her annual salary, Dr. Natarajan wrote, "Dr. Luisa Florez has shown a highly successful and proven track record of conducting a variety of forensic autopsy cases, out of county cases and hospital autopsies."

He went on to write, "She has effectively proven her knowledge base and extreme thoroughness in the completion of all her cases. She is a team player..."

"Were you surprised when you were terminated?" we asked.

"No," Dr. Florez said.

"She paid a terrible price, lost her job and now she's going to stand up for what she believes in," Kerensky said.

The human resources director for the Lubbock County Medical Examiner's Office said they do not comment publicly on employee matters.

Lubbock County District Attorney Matt Powell said he cannot comment on pending litigation.

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