After successfully arguing that Idaho State Police had retaliated against him for refusing to change his professional conclusion about a fatal crash, ISP detective Brandon Eller was awarded $1.5 million in damages by an Ada County Jury. He hasn't seen any of it and is still tangled in court filings, though.
"All Brandon wanted was to be heard, for somebody to say, 'We got it wrong. We're sorry. We'll try to do better.' The reason Brandon brought the lawsuit was to get some accountability," said Erika Birch, Boise-based attorney with Strindberg & Scholnick. "When are the State and ISP going to accept accountability for their actions?"
Birch celebrated the jury's verdict with Eller and his wife Kristi in September 2017. The State of Idaho has yet to pay a dime to Eller, who won more than $30,000 in lost wages and an additional $1.5 million for emotional distress. Soon thereafter, the State of Idaho argued that the emotional distress award should have been limited to $500,000, saying that there had only been one occurrence of alleged retaliation, and that the Idaho Tort Claims Act limits damages to $500,000 per occurrence. That, in turn, triggered a separate appeal from Birch, arguing that there had been multiple occurrences of retaliation. During Eller's trial, it was learned that Eller had been labeled a "disgruntled employee," denied a pay increase and relegated to night and weekend shifts after he faulted a Payette County Sheriff's deputy for recklessness in the investigation of a 2011 fatal car crash.
"In the appeal, each side files an opening brief, a responding brief, a reply brief and then we'll make oral arguments in front of the Court of Appeals," said Birch. "Obviously, when you get a verdict like this, you hope it's the end of the line. To have ISP appeal on the back end is more frustration."
The argument in front of the Court of Appeals isn't expected anytime soon.
"When you have somebody on the other side who refuses to accept even a jury verdict and continues to appeal, it's pretty impossible to get closure," said Birch.