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Drug Testing News
attendant's claim against drug test lab upheld
An appeals court affirms Yasuko Ishikawa's $400,000 verdict
against Lab One, which claimed she cheated on a test
Lab: Test standards violated
A federal appeals court Friday upheld a $400,000 verdict for a
Portland-based Delta Airlines flight attendant who was fired
after a testing laboratory incorrectly said she had cheated on
a mandatory drug test.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the federal
jury's July 2001 decision against Lab One Inc. The flight
attendant, Yasuko Ishikawa, 42, sued Delta and Lab One after
she was fired in October 1999. She insisted she never took
drugs and didn't alter her urine sample as the lab report
Ishikawa was reinstated, and the case against Delta eventually
was dismissed. However, the jury found that Lenexa, Kan.-based
Lab One was negligent when it incorrectly ran a "validity
test" on Ishikawa's urine sample. The test is used to ensure
that a sample is human urine and came from the person
submitting it. Drug users often switch their samples or alter
them to avoid detection.
Ishikawa's Lab One urine sample -- the second half of the
original, which is frozen and saved -- was tested at another
lab as part of the lawsuit. She passed the validity test, and
no drugs were present.
Ishikawa was among four flight attendants and a pilot Delta
fired in 1999 based on the Lab One tests, which the airline
claimed were 100 percent accurate. Labor unions for flight
attendants and pilots protested the firings.
The unions complained to the Federal Aviation Administration
and U.S. Transportation Department about the scientific
legitimacy of the validity tests. The government agencies
require testing of millions of transportation workers each
year in the name of public safety.
A review of laboratory testing procedures commissioned by the
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2000 found
that Lab One and other labs had not followed government
standards in the way they conducted the validity tests. About
300 tests, including more than 80 from Lab One, were thrown
John J. Weber, who represents Lab One, said no decision has
been made about appealing the ruling.
Ishikawa still works for Delta but has relocated to New York,
said her attorney, Mark McDougal. -- Mark Larabee