Bethany Krajelis Mar. 14, 2013, 11:49am

An April hearing has been set in a suit that pits a car hauler manufacturer against an expert witness who testified against it.

Cottrell Inc. filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago last month against a J. Nigel Ellis, founder of Ellis Litigation Support and head of fall safety design companies Dynamic Scientific Controls and Ellis Ladder Improvements in Delaware.

The company first sued Ellis and his companies in August 2012 in the Madison County Circuit Court. The matter was removed to the federal court in East St. Louis in September and dismissed in late January at Cottrell’s request.

In the suit it filed in February in Chicago, Cottrell asserts that venue is proper in the Northern District of Illinois because “a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claims occurred” in that judicial district and the amount in controversy is more than $75,000.

This month, the case was assigned to U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee, who set an April 2 hearing in the matter.

Cottrell accuses Ellis of breaching his promise not to communicate with plaintiffs’ attorneys while in discussions with the company about fall safety designs he was trying to sell it. Ellis first approached Cottrell in August 2005 in an attempt to sell it safety designs he developed, court documents say.

The two parties, according to the complaint, communicated from about November 2005 to May 2006, during which time Cottrell alleges Ellis “secretly began communicating with Brian Wendler, a plaintiff’s attorney who has repeatedly sued Cottrell for more than a decade.”

Wendler, an Edwardsville attorney who represents injured truckers, disclosed Ellis as an expert witness in July 2007 in a case against the company.

In that case and others that followed, Cottrell asserts that plaintiffs’ attorneys “have relied on defendant Nigel Ellis’ communications and letters to Cottrell to support Ellis’ opinions, and plaintiffs’ claims of liability and punitive damages against Cottrell.”

As a result of Ellis’ conduct, Cottrell claims that it wrongly incurred expert fees, costs and expenses, as well as deposition fees it paid to Ellis. It also contends that its business reputation has been damaged.

The suit, which seeks $1 million in damages, includes counts against Ellis and his companies for breach of contract, negligence, fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation, fraud via omission, civil conspiracy and a violation of the Deceptive or Unfair Practices Act.

John Joseph Bullaro Jr. and Scott R. Sinson of Bullaro & Carton in Chicago filed the suit on behalf of Cottrell.

Edwardsville attorneys Christopher Byron and Christopher Petri represented Cottrell in the recently-dismissed suit in the Southern District of Illinois, where St. Louis attorneys W. Jeffrey Muskopf and John Bradford Goss represented Ellis and his companies.

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