It is common knowledge that if you go to trial and lose, chances are you can appeal the ruling. People on death row appeal as many times as they are able, hoping to reverse the decision that may lead to their death. Parents can appeal when they lose custody of their children. And most recently, Chicago State University appealed a ruling that James Crowley, their former attorney, was unfairly fired. What a lot of people don’t realize, however, is just how costly and time-consuming appeals can be.
Crowley v. Watson
First, some background. In 2014, Chicago State University fired James Crowley after he refused to withhold documents and acted as a whistleblower. Crowley sued under the state ethics act, an act that protects employees such as Crowley who disclose employer activities that they believe might be illegal. The University claimed that instead Crowley was fired for misusing university resources. A Cook County jury found that Crowley was in fact unfairly fired, and awarded him two million dollars in punitive damages and back pay in the amount of $480,000.
Needless to say, the University appealed, primarily citing the large punitive damages award. But here we see how appeals can do more harm than good. In March, the appellate court in Cook County not only upheld the jury’s award, but the judge ordered attorneys’ fees to be paid to Crowley in the amount of $300,000 and doubled the amount of back pay he would receive. Additionally, the university was ordered to pay Crowley his salary until all appeals were completed, in the amount of $120,000 a year. After this appeal, the total cost to the University went from about 2.5 million to 5 million, plus some if the appeals continue for multiple years.
State Supreme Court
On May 25, 2016 the Illinois Supreme Court denied the University’s appeal, making both appeals unsuccessful. Now, the case will go back to the trial judge for the final determination of how much money Crowley will receive.
This decision has effects that go beyond just Chicago State University. Of course, the decision of the Supreme Court reinforces the fact that the University was in the wrong; this is the third time that Crowley was found to have been unfairly fired. This is hurtful to both the University’s pocket and their reputation. But the positive there is that all employers will take note; they will be held accountable under the ethics act that Crowley used. Unfortunately for them, this positive came only at the expense of the University.
This case is not unusual; while appeals that are successful frequently make the news, a good many are not successful. In that case, the appeal takes time and money, and sometimes the ruling may ultimately cost you more money. In order to decide whether an appeal makes sense, it is important to keep these facts in mind.
Contact a Chicago Appeals Attorney
Appeals are a very complex, costly, and time-consuming process. If you received a verdict that you wish to appeal, consulting an attorney can only help. There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to appeal and the attorneys in the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane are here to help you. Contact us today for a consultation.