Criminal Case against Chemistry Professor Centers on Lab Accident and Death of Chemistry Research Assistant

Case in Los Angeles may create a precedent for liability in research laboratory settings as well as for accidents in pathology or clinical laboratories

Clinical chemists, particularly those working in academic center medical laboratories and research labs, may be interested in the progress of a criminal case that was filed in California following the death of a 23-year-old research associate. She died in 2008 while conducting experiments in a chemistry laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Court proceedings are moving forward and the university has entered a settlement. That leaves the felony charges against the professor to be resolved. Some knowledgeable observers have suggested that the chemistry professor has been “thrown under the bus” by his academic institution. On that point alone, this case will be informational to professors of clinical chemistry, pathology, and medical laboratory medicine.

Criminal Charges Filed Against Chemistry Professor and UC Regents

On December 27, 2011, following an investigation of this lab accident, the District Attorney’s office for Los Angeles County filed three criminal counts against the Regents of the University of California and Patrick G. Harran, Ph.D., who is a Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA. The defendants were charged with three counts each of willfully violating occupational health and safety standards, resulting in the death of Sheharbano “Sheri” Sangji, who was the research assistant working in the chemistry research laboratory. (more…)