Pitt dental school fighting lawsuit over alleged death threat between professors

By Gabriel Neves | Aug 14, 2018

PITTSBURGH – The University of Pittsburgh, the associate dean of its dental school and a professor are denying claims of misconduct made by a former instructor.

In an amended complaint filed Aug. 6 in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, former Pitt Dental School Professor Snjezana Bagic sued the university, Assistant Dean Bernard Costello and professor Sean Noonan, alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent retention, trade libel, false light and civil conspiracy.

As stated in the complaint, Bagic worked as "an instructor, group team leader, course director, co-course director and member of the faculty" from 2008 to April 27, 2016.

The lawsuit alleged that Noonan "abused his privileges as a faculty member, failed to appropriately undertake his clinical and administrative time and...performed services for fees during time in which he should be performing clinical or administrative time." The suit also claims that Noonan "misappropriated the assistance of Bagic's team" without her consent.

Bernard Costello   University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine

Bagic also said in the complaint that she "made complaints and/or informed the chair of the Department of Restorative Dentistry/Comprehensive Care, Michael Dobos," about Noonan's inappropriate actions, but nothing was done.

After informing other faculty members about Noonan's actions, Bagic said she was investigated by the dean's office amid allegations that she was threatening to kill Noonan. 

The complaint said Noonan "stated to several university-related individuals that Bagic threatened to kill him" in an attempt at "discrediting Bagic, preventing Bagic from interfering with his activities and to defame Bagic."

Bagic also accused Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs Bernard Costello of launching the investigation in a "negligent, careless and reckless fashion." 

Costello was assigned by Dean Thomas Braun to investigate Bagic's possible threat, the lawsuit said.

Bagic said in the complaint that Costello "failed to provide appropriate due process to Bagic." She also claimed that Costello seemed to have already made up his mind before conducting the investigation.

Bagic said she suffered emotional distress and was fired on April 27, 2016.

In a preliminary objection to the complaint, the defendants are asking for the count of emotional distress to be dismissed, alleging that Bagic's claims "contain no allegations of 'intentional extreme and outrageous conduct.'" The defendants also argued that these claims "do not rise the rare level of egregiousness" required to prove distress.

The defendants said Bagic "fails to state a claim" on the counts of civil conspiracy, negligent retention and false light and that Bagic was not able to prove her work was disqualified as a result of the alleged libel.

"Dr. Bagic does not allege that the university or Dr. Costello made statements about the quality of her goods," the defendants said in their objection.

Bagic is seeking damages in excess of $35,000.

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