National and International Media Cover Discrimination Lawsuit Filed by AZA Client Dr. Hasan Gokal, Improperly Accused of Stealing COVID-19 Vaccine
September 23, 2021
HOUSTON – Dr. Hasan Gokal’s discrimination lawsuit against Harris County has received local, national, and even international media attention.
AZA’s client Dr. Gokal had been through hell since a late December 2020 evening when he worked heroically to get some about-to-be-expired COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of people who needed it. But his employer, Harris County Public Health, told him he picked the wrong people to help – too many of them had “Indian” names, too many of them were Asian.
Dr. Gokal was fired, accused of theft of the vaccine, and subjected to international news coverage for the accusations. Since then, a judge, a grand jury and the Texas Medical Board have all cleared him, and this week he filed a civil lawsuit against Harris County and Harris County Public Health for discrimination based on his race and national origin.
“It’s very clear that if he had vaccinated people named Anderson, Smith, and Jones he would have been called a hero and would not have been fired, charged, vilified, and brought before a grand jury that thankfully refused to indict him,” Dr. Gokal’s attorney, AZA co-founder Joe Ahmad, was quoted by CNN in “Texas doctor fired for using leftover Covid-19 vaccine doses sues county for discrimination.”
Dr. Gokal’s ordeal began when he sought to use up an already opened vial of the Moderna vaccine before the remaining 10 doses could expire. He checked with his supervisor, made calls looking for people who needed the shot, followed protocols in place at the time, and turned in the proper paperwork the next day. He filed this lawsuit because the problem for Harris County turned out to be the names on that paperwork, which cost Dr. Gokal his job, tarnished his professional reputation, and submitted him to criminal charges.
AZA associate Michael Killingsworth was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, “There wasn’t one single person who was turned down (for vaccination) who was at risk that he could have given it to instead,” in “Doctor cleared of COVID-19 vaccine theft sues Harris County.”
“Well, I am hoping that we can finally set right some of the wrongs that happened along the way,” Dr. Gokal said to KPRC-TV NBC-2 in “Former doctor accused of stealing COVID vaccines now suing Harris County.”
Massive media coverage of this lawsuit includes these examples: Houston Chronicle “Dr. Hasan Gokal, cleared of vaccine theft charge, sues Harris County for racial discrimination” ; Houston Public Media – NPR “Doctor Accused Of Stealing COVID Vaccines Sues Harris County For More Than $1 Million” ; USA Today “Doctor fired for giving leftover COVID-19 vaccines to people with ‘Indian’ names sues for discrimination” ; Winnipeg Free Press “A roundup of COVID-19 developments for Tuesday Sept. 21, 2021” and News Indian Express “US doctor cleared of COVID-19 vaccine theft sues Harris County.”
The lawsuit is Hasan Gokal v Harris County, Texas dba Harris County Public Health in Harris County, case no. 2021-60942.
AZA, or Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., is a Houston-based law firm that is home to true courtroom lawyers with a formidable track record in complex commercial litigation, including energy, healthcare, intellectual property, and business dispute cases. AZA is recognized by Chambers USA 2021 among the best in Texas commercial law and intellectual property; by U.S. News – Best Lawyers’ Best Law Firms as one of the country’s best commercial litigation firms for nine years running; has been named Litigation Department of the Year by Texas Lawyer; and was previously dubbed by Law360 a Texas Powerhouse law firm. National corporate counsel named AZA one of the country’s best in client service among law firms serving the Fortune 500.