Judge awards whistleblower nearly $15 million
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A judge awarded nearly $15 million in a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a one-time mortuary worker who was threatened with being cremated alive for revealing fraud, his attorneys said Thursday.
The judgment in favor of Barry Taul, made under a federal law that rewards people who report fraud and other crimes, goes against the owner of Abanks Mortuary and Crematory, where Taul once worked in Birmingham.
A jury ruled in Taul’s favor last month in a whistleblower lawsuit. Taul can receive about $4 million of the judgment; the rest will go to the government.
A lawyer for the mortuary company and its owner, Jed Nagel, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
A statement from Taul’s attorneys with the Montgomery-based Beasley Allen Law Firm said Taul reported a scheme where the mortuary paid kickbacks to two former officials with the Alabama Organ Center in exchange for business referrals. The funeral home collected tissues for the organ center.
Larry Golston, one of the attorneys who represented Taul, said the man was threatened with being cremated alive in an attempt to silence him.
“This was one of the most horrifying cases I’ve seen involving intimidation and retaliation against a whistleblower,” Golston said in a statement. “My client was just trying to do the right thing.”
Nagel was acquitted on theft charges in 2016, but two one-time officials with the Alabama Organ Center pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison in 2012.