Law School Case Brief
Balla v. Gambro, Inc. - 145 Ill. 2d 492, 164 Ill. Dec. 892, 584 N.E.2d 104 (1991)
Generally, in-house counsel do not have a claim under the tort of retaliatory discharge.
An attorney, in-house counsel, stated that he would do whatever was necessary to stop the employer's sale of certain misbranded and/or adulterated dialyzers. The employer fired the attorney, and the attorney filed an action for retaliatory discharge. The attorney brought an action against the employer for retaliatory discharge. The trial court granted a motion for summary judgment in favor of the employer. The Appellate Court, First Circuit reversed the trial court's order and denied the motion for summary judgment. The employer challenged the order that denied its motion for summary judgment.
Does the whistleblower exception to the at-will employment doctrine apply to attorneys?
On appeal, the court held that the attorney did not have a cause of action for retaliatory discharge. The court reasoned that the whistleblower exception to the at-will employment doctrine did not apply to attorneys in the same manner as it did to other employees. The court reasoned that the retaliatory discharge exception to the at-will employment doctrine was intended to encourage employees to come forward and report acts that contravened public policy. The court found that attorneys had an ethical obligation pursuant to Model Rules of Prof'l Conduct R. 1.6(b) to reveal information necessary to prevent a client from committing a crime. The court also found that extending the tort of retaliatory discharge might have a chilling effect on the communications between the employer and in-house counsel. The court reversed the order that denied the employer's motion for summary judgment, and affirmed the decision of the trial court.
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