A former employee of the American Humane Association who says she was fired from the HBO horse-racing drama "Luck" after complaining about abusive treatment of the animals on the set has filed a wrongful-termination suit against HBO, as well as the AHA.
In the suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, Barbara Casey says that she was fired in January 2012 "in order to prevent her from reporting ... violation of animal abuse and cruelty laws and/or in retaliation for her efforts in reporting same."
Also read: "Luck" Canceled After Latest Horse Death HBO pulled the plug on "Luck" in March 2012, after three horses died during the production of the series.
Casey says that representatives for the AHA observed numerous instances of abuse, including the drugging of horses in order to get them to perform, and the use of underweight and sick horses that were unsuitable for the work involved. However, complaints were stymied by the show's producers and, at the urging of the show's producers, by the AHA itself, which "told its representatives not to document" the death of one horse "because he was killed during a summer hiatus from filming and therefore 'did not count.'"
Also read: Why HBO's "Luck" Wasn't Fit to Run
"Plaintiff repeatedly complained to AHA and the Production Defendants about horses being criminal abused, neglected and/or mistreated on set," the suit reads. "She cited AHA and/or the Production Defendants to violations of laws and criminal statutes pertaining to the mistreatment and/or abuse of animals ... Plaintiff urged AHA to get the police, the district attorney and/or the city attorney involved."
However, the suit claims, "AHA bowed to political and financial pressure and refused to report the Production Defendants' conduct to the authorities."
In early January 2012, Casey alleges, she was canned by the AHA in order to keep her from complaining -- and it did so with the encouragement of the "Luck" producers.
"The Production Defendants provided advice, encouragement and/or moral support to AHA to terminate Plaintiff," the complaint alleges. "The Production Defendants aided and abetted in Plaintiff's termination so that the 'Luck' production would not be made more costly, time consuming and/or otherwise disrupted."
Also read: HBO's Cost of Killing "Luck": $35 Million
HBO denied Casey's allegations, saying that the network "took every precaution" for the horses' safety, and that her grievance is with her former employer, not with the network.
"We took every precaution to ensure that our horses were treated humanely and with the utmost care, exceeding every safeguard of all protocols and guidelines required of the production," an HBO spokeswoman told TheWrap in a statement. "Barbara Casey was not an employee of HBO, and any questions regarding her employment should be directed to the AHA."
A spokeswoman for the AHA told TheWrap that the organization is unable to comment on the pending legal matter.
In addition to wrongful termination, Casey alleges violation of California labor code and aiding and abetting.
Casey is seeking a penalty "not exceeding $10,000 for each alleged labor code violation, plus unspecified damages, interest, suit costs and other relief.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.
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