HBO faces lawsuit over horse deaths and alleged cover-up on "Luck"

In image released by HBO, horses race in scene from the HBO original series "Luck" AP Photo/HBO, Gusmano Cesaretti

HBO and Stewart Productions have been hit with a lawsuit from an ex-American Humane Association employee, who alleges that the channel and producers mistreated horses and participated in a months-long abuse cover-up.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Barbara Casey, who was the director of production in the American Human Association's film and TV department, says the organization witnessed drugged horses, as well as underweight and sick horses, being forced to work on the series, which was canceled last March after at least three horses died during filming.

Casey is also suing the American Humane Association and HBO for wrongful termination; she was let go in January 2012 and alleges it was wrong to fire her after she attempted to go to authorities for reporting alleged criminal activity.

"AHA bowed to political and financial pressure and refused to report the Production Defendants' conduct to the authorities," Casey, who worked as a liaison between the animal rights group and production companies, alleges in the suit. "AHA instructed Plaintiff not to report such conduct. AHA engaged in efforts to conceal and cover up the production defendants' criminal activities."

HBO released the following statement to The Hollywood Reporter: "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. Barbara Casey was not an employee of HBO, and any questions regarding her employment should be directed to the AHA."

The horseracing show starred Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte. When announcing the cancellation of the series last year, HBO said, "While we maintained the highest safety standards possible, accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won't in the future. Accordingly, we have reached this difficult decision."

  • CBS News Staff

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