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State of Nebraska is dismissed from suit filed by former Lincoln Regional Center psychiatrist

January 22, 2019

LINCOLN — A federal judge has tossed out claims filed by a former Lincoln Regional Center psychiatrist against the state and a former hospital administrator.

But U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp ruled that Dr. Farid Karimi could continue to pursue claims against two Department of Health and Human Services employees.

Karimi filed the suit in July, alleging that violations of state rules and regulations affected the care of patients at the state mental hospital. He also claimed that he had been retaliated against and defamed for reporting the violations.

At the time he filed the suit, Karimi was working at the regional center and had been since February 2016. He was terminated in November.

In her order, Smith Camp did not rule on the validity of the doctor’s claims. Instead, she said sovereign immunity protected HHS against being sued, along with protecting three other defendants when they were acting in their official capacity.

Smith Camp said Karimi’s claims of improper patient care related to the constitutional rights of the patients, not his rights.

Similarly, she said he could not claim that “low quality mental health care, improper medical treatment decisions and malpractice” violate the federal Rehabilitation Act without showing that the patients were treated that way because of their disability.

The judge’s order dismissed claims against Stacey Werth-Sweeney, who had been chief operating officer of the regional center.

Werth-Sweeney was terminated from the regional center on June 12. She has since filed her own lawsuit against HHS, alleging that she was fired for trying to discipline Karimi and a second psychiatrist.

But Smith Camp let stand claims against Sheri Dawson, HHS behavioral health division director, and Mark LaBouchardiere, HHS facilities director, in their personal capacity.

James Zalewski, Karimi’s attorney, said they intend to pursue the remaining claims and are planning to file legal action concerning Karimi’s firing.

The regional center treats patients with severe mental illnesses, as well as sex offenders with mental disorders. Patients may be sent to the center by court order or by local mental health boards.

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