Salesman allegedly worked for plaintiff's attorney; Cottrell seeks $6 million in damages

Kelly Holleran Sep. 10, 2012, 3:00am


The designer of auto transport rigs claims an alleged salesman used sales communications to testify against the company in court, allegedly causing the corporation to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Cottrell filed a lawsuit Aug. 28 in Madison County Circuit Court against J. Nigel Ellis, Dynamic Scientific Controls, Ellis Ladder Improvements and Ellis Litigation Services.

In its complaint, Cottrell alleges it engaged in talks with J. Nigel Ellis, who was attempting to sell a fall safety design his companies, Dynamic Scientific Controls and Ellis Ladder Improvements, had developed.

Before agreeing to the discussions, however, Cottrell inquired whether J. Nigel Ellis was working with any plaintiff's attorneys and told him that it would cease communication if he was doing so, according to the complaint. Trusting J. Nigel Ellis when he denied working with any attorneys, Cottrell agreed to continue discussions, the suit states.

However, unbeknownst to Cottrell, J. Nigel Ellis began engaging in talks with Brian Wendler, a plaintiff's attorney who had filed numerous lawsuits against Cottrell for more than a decade, the complaint says.

Cottrell claims it continued communications with J. Nigel Ellis from November 2005, after J. Nigel Ellis signed a confidentiality agreement, through May 21, 2006, when J. Nigel Ellis suddenly stopped communicating with the company.

It was not until March 2007 that Cottrell heard from J. Nigel Ellis again, when he asked whether the company was interested in his product, according to the complaint. At that time, J. Nigel Ellis had already been employed by Wendler, the suit states.

In fact, J. Nigel Ellis's sudden cease in communication with Cottrell in 2006 may have been due to his communications with Wendler, which began as early as July 2006, according to the complaint.

Wendler employed J. Nigel Ellis as an expert witness in lawsuits Wendler filed against Cottrell, the suit states. J. Nigel Ellis first testified against Cottrell in August 2010, providing prior communications as evidence against the company, the complaint says.

"In his August 2010 testimony, defendant Nigel Ellis testified that Cottrell 'seemed price conscious' and implied that Cottrell valued cost over safety, based on his communications," the suit states.

In the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Nigel Ellis was disqualified as a witness because of conflict of interest with Cottrell, the company claims. Still, Nigel Ellis continues to serve as an expert witness in other cases against Cottrell, relying on past sales communications with Cottrell to support his opinions, according to the complaint.

Because of Nigel Ellis's testimonies, Cottrell has been forced to settle cases for an unspecified amount, but which cost the company more than $75,000 each, the suit states. It also incurred tens of thousands of dollars in attorneys' fees and has sustained a tarnished business reputation, the complaint says.

In its complaint, Cottrell alleges fraudulent misrepresentation, violation of the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, fraud and civil conspiracy against the defendants.

It seeks a judgment of more than $6 million, plus an unspecified amount of punitive damages, costs and other relief the court deems just.

Christopher W. Byron and Christopher J. Petri of Byron, Carlson, Petri and Kalb in Edwardsville will be representing him.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 12-L-1373.

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