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$4 Million Jury Award to Wrongfully Jailed Immigrant Reversed on Appeal

In May 1997, Yongping Zhou (plaintiff), a Chinese mechanical engineer, entered the United States on a fiancée visa. The marriage ended with charges of domestic violence, for which Zhoe was convicted in 1998, though the charges were eventually overturned. The INS later initiated deportation proceedings pursuant to the domestic violence conviction and took Zhou into custody. He retained the law firm of John Z. Huang, P.C. (defendants), a firm that specialized in immigration matters. After twenty-five months in detention, Zhou finally was released on bond after firing Huang's firm and retaining other counsel.

Zhou sued Huang, asserting that he had failed to adequately represent him, failed to seek proper relief, and failed to advise the INS judge of the relevant facts and law, resulting in his extended incarceration, loss of normal life, emotional distress, depression, adjustment disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

On his part, Huang claimed he had brought the proper issues to the attention of the INS judge and did not have the duty to correct the judge, but could only appeal an adverse decision. Both sides employed expert witnesses. The case was tried by a jury in May-June 2008, and a verdict was returned in favor of Zhou with an award of $4,000,000 in damages, which was later reduced by the trial court to $1 million on remittitur. 

Huang appealed, and in 2010 the appellate court found the trial court had erred by allowing Zhou to obtain non-economic damages. The verdict was reversed and judgment entered in favor of Huang; Zhou appealed to the state Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case. See: Zhou v. Huang, IL Court of Appeals, Case No. 1-08-2807 (2010) (unpublished), review denied.

Sources: Cook County Jury Verdict Reporter, 1 Aug. 2008, #42 Vol. 22;

Revised: Sept. 18, 2017

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