Washington, DC | September 3, 2019 – Detective Brandon Eller of the Idaho State Police (ISP) Department last week resolved his whistleblower case, Det. Eller v. Idaho State Police, against his employer upon receiving a commitment from the ISP to compensate him for the emotional distress he suffered from its unfair retaliatory actions. The department retaliated against Det. Eller after he testified against another officer. With the assistance of University of Idaho professor of law, John Rumel, the National Whistleblower Center contributed to this victory by submitting an amicus curiae brief to the Idaho Supreme Court on the critical issue of compensation for emotional distress.
NWC Executive Director John Kostyack stated,
“The Idaho Supreme Court’s pro-whistleblower ruling in May 2019, and last week’s agreement by Idaho State Police to compensate Detective Eller, is a notable win for whistleblowers. Full compensation for harm suffered due to retaliation is important for rectifying injustices to today’s whistleblowers and encouraging future whistleblowers to step forward. NWC applauds Detective Eller’s resolve throughout the duration of the case.”
Det. Eller, a crash investigator, filed his lawsuit in 2015 after ISP retaliated against him following his testimony against a fellow officer who faced a vehicular manslaughter charge after a fatal crash in 2011. ISP retaliated further after Det. Eller objected to ISP policy requiring crash investigators to destroy initial drafts of their investigative reports. Retaliatory actions at the hands of the ISP led Det. Eller to suffer emotionally and physically, according to his and his family’s testimony in case proceedings.
Two years ago, a jury awarded Detective Eller $1.5 million. The trial judge then reduced the award to $1 million, a ruling reversed by the Idaho Supreme Court on the ground that the trial judge had improperly precluded recovery for emotion distress. Last week Det. Eller and ISP settled on a $1.29 million award for lost wages, damages and legal fees.
Det. Eller said,
“Although this has been an extremely stressful undertaking, I close this chapter knowing that the jury’s verdict vindicated not just my rights, but the rights of every government employee in Idaho. Government employees should be able to stand up against misconduct and corruption within their agencies.”
Whistleblowers deserve the right to expose fraud without fear of overhanded consequences. It is critical that anti-retaliation protections are solidified in our society. Det. Eller noted, “Without the whistleblower laws, the people of Idaho are unable to ensure full government accountability.”
Professor Rumel said that,
“as 1stAmendment rights have been somewhat limited by the Supreme Court in recent years, I was happy to help clarify whistleblower protections and laws in this case and in Idaho. After the conclusion of this case, whistleblower plaintiffs like Det. Eller have a much-needed remedy for non-economic loss, including emotional loss.”
Resolution of this case presents a success for all whistleblowers who strive to hold the government accountable and oppose waste and abuse.