Harvard Medical “Expert” Disqualified in Federal Court Case Due to “Overwhelming” and “Misleading” Plagiarism

2024-04-16 12:00:25

As we have reported, senior officials at Harvard have repeatedly been accused of plagiarism over the last year:

And of course, Harvard President Claudine Gay resigned, or was forced out, over rampant plagiarism charges:

So, I suppose it should not have been a surprise when late last month a federal judge disqualified a Harvard Medical School doctor for rampant plagiarism, but it was to me. In my former life as a patent litigation attorney, we often used experts in federal court cases to “establish” certain facts about complex technologies that are beyond the comprehension of everyday people like you and me.

This is allowed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the disclosure of the expert’s qualifications and the basis for his or her expert opinions is tightly controlled:

[A] party must disclose to the other parties the identity of any [expert] witness it may use at trial to present evidence…this disclosure must be accompanied by a written report—prepared and signed by the witness—if the witness is one retained or specially employed to provide expert testimony in the case or one whose duties as the party’s employee regularly involve giving expert testimony.

The report must contain:

(i) a complete statement of all opinions the witness will express and the basis and reasons for them;

(ii) the facts or data considered by the witness in forming them;

(iii) any exhibits that will be used to summarize or support them;

(iv) the witness’s qualifications, including a list of all publications authored in the previous 10 years;

(v) a list of all other cases in which, during the previous 4 years, the witness testified as an expert at trial or by deposition; and

(vi) a statement of the compensation to be paid for the study and testimony in the case.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2)(B).

Anyway, I have never even heard of a federal court expert witness being accused of plagiarism, never mind actually being disqualified for it.

But it happened in a case called Henderson v. Lockheed Martin, in which several dozen plaintiffs sued Lockheed Martin, alleging that toxic chemicals from Lockheed’s Orlando weapons plant caused them various diseases, many cancer-related.

From Legal Newsline: ‘A mess’: Expert in Fla. toxic tort plagiarizes cancer research of others, tries to submit it to court:

[P]laintiffs have been booted from a Florida toxic tort lawsuit because the expert hired by lawyers to connect their cancers to substances released at a Lockheed Martin plant plagiarized the work of a research group.

Judge Roy Dalton, in Orlando federal court, on March 18 granted Lockheed Martin’s motion to exclude the testimony of Dr. Dipak Panigrahy, a pathologist who was to testify that seven substances released at an Orlando plant can cause eight types of cancer that affect 22 plaintiffs in the lawsuit….

Panigrahy’s testimony alleged TCE, PCE, HCHO, arsenic, hexavalent chromium, trichloroethylene and styrene could cause these cancers: kidney, breast, thyroid, pancreatic, liver and bile duct, testicular, anal, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia.

The problem was Panigrahy simply copied, without any attribution, large swaths of research produced by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). This, Judge Dalton determined, was deliberate Plagiarism:

“Here, there is no question that Dr. Panigrahy extensively plagiarized his report,” he added. A side-by-side comparison speaks for itself.

“And his deposition made the plagiarism appear deliberate, as he repeatedly outright refused to acknowledge the long swaths of his report that quote other work verbatim without any quotation marks at all – instead stubbornly insisting that he cited over 1,100 references, as if that resolves the attribution issue (it does not).”

This plagiarism demonstrates an unreliable methodology, Dalton found.

“Indeed, the plagiarism is so ubiquitous throughout the report that it is frankly overwhelming to try to make heads or tails of just what is Dr. Panigrahy’s own work – a task that neither he nor Plaintiffs’ counsel even attempts to tackle,” he wrote.

More importantly, Dr. Panigrahy took the stolen research and deleted cautionary references, thereby making it look worse than it was. From Judge Dalton’s Disqualification Order:

Again, the Court could end there. But the report gets worse—because Dr. Panigrahy did not just lift from IARC without alteration. Rather, several times, he copied lengthy paragraphs from IARC verbatim but conveniently left out sentences in which IARC urged caution about the limitations of its findings, misleadingly presenting the science as more definitive than it actually is…Copying from IARC is bad enough, but selectively copying to overstate the science makes Dr. Panigrahy’s methodology even less reliable…And because Dr. Panigrahy did not actually put quotation marks around what he was lifting from IARC, it would be a near impossible task to try to find every instance in his 500-page report where he went even further than IARC would by omitting its cautionary language, so the Court cannot parse out reliable sections.”

You can find Judge Dalton’s Disqualification Order at the end of this post. It makes for good reading.

Judge Dalton summed up:

In sum, the rampant plagiarism in Dr. Panigrahy’s report leads the Court to conclude that his general causation methodology as a whole is too unreliable to put before a jury. So Lockheed’s motion to exclude Dr. Panigrahy is due to be granted in full. With Dr. Panigrahy excluded, there is no reliable general causation testimony on any of the types of cancer at issue, so summary judgment is due to be granted in favor of Lockheed on the exposure claims of [22] Plaintiffs.

That means Lockheed wins the case, and these Plaintiffs’ claims against Lockheed are dismissed, with prejudice, meaning these claims may not be brought again in any court of law.

Dr. Panigrahy’s report was so bad that it made Nathan Schachtman’s Wall of Shame blog, who went over the Lockheed case, Dipak Panigrahy – Expert Witness & Putative Plagiarist, and then noted Dr. Panigrahy’s current job title:

The putative plagiarist, Dr. Panigraphy, is an assistant professor of pathology, at Harvard Medical School, in the department of pathology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in Boston.

Schachtman also notes that Panigrahy had his opinion excluded in another federal court case in 2022:

Panigraphy has a profile at the “Expert Institute,” sort of an employment agency for expert witnesses. His opinions were excluded in the federal multi-district litigation concerning Zantac/ranitidine.  In re Zantac (ranitidine) Prods. Liab. Litig., MDL NO. 2924 20-MD-2924, 644 F. Supp. 3d 1075, 1100 (S.D. Fla. 2022).

Looks like Harvard has more to clean up than just the DEI and President’s office. And, I might add, it’s one thing for the head of DEI to have plagiarized, it is quite another for Harvard Medical School professors to have plagiarized. Good lord.


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Harvard Medical “Expert” Disqualified in Federal Court Case Due to “Overwhelming” and “Misleading” Plagiarism


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