Idaho Supreme Court Upholds ISP Whistleblower Verdict, Slaps Down Cap on Damages 

click to enlarge RYAN JOHNSON
  • Ryan Johnson
In August, 2017  Boise Weekly chronicled how a veteran Idaho State Police investigator had been denied promotions, pay increases and relegated to the graveyard shift when he refused to change his testimony in a fatal crash investigation involving another law enforcement officer. At the time, ISP labeled Detective Brandon Eller a "disgruntled employee," but Eller's attorneys argued that ISP's highest ranking officers orchestrated a pattern of retaliation against Eller for testifying against another officer of the law.

click to enlarge (Right to left) Kristi and Brandon Eller, Erika Burch, Guy Hallam and Dunja Subasic. - ERIKA BIRCH
  • Erika Birch
  • (Right to left) Kristi and Brandon Eller, Erika Burch, Guy Hallam and Dunja Subasic.
In September, 2017, an Ada County jury sided with Eller and said he should be awarded more than $1.5 million in damages and lost wages.

"We have to rely on good, honest, courageous people who stand up in whistleblower cases such as this," Eller's attorney, Erika Birtch of Strindberg & Scholnick, LLC told BW in 2017. "Sometimes their fight is the only thing that will let us see the light of day."

The State of Idaho appealed the jury's verdict and damages, but on May 24, the Idaho Supreme Court upheld the 2017 verdict against ISP and also denied ISP's claim that the damages should be capped under the Idaho Tort Claims Act. Idaho's high court ruled that the Whistleblower Act supplants the Idaho Tort Claims Act, adding that "Eller participated in protected activities."

"The Whistleblower Act protects governmental integrity by providing a legal cause of action to public employees who experience adverse actions by the employer as a result of reporting waste of violations of a law, rule or regulation," wrote the Idaho Supreme Court in its May 24 opinion.

The high court also ordered that a partial new trial be held to again determine Eller's non-economic damages, solely under the Whisteleblower Act.
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