A car hauler manufacturer has voluntarily dismissed a lawsuit against a man it claimed used inside information against the company in court.
In August 2012, Cottrell Inc. filed a lawsuit in Madison County Circuit Court against 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 suit, which was removed to federal court in September, accused Ellis of using information he learned while trying to sell his companies’ designs to Cottrell against it in court as an expert witness for plaintiffs’ attorney Brian Wendler.
Cottrell claimed in its suit that it communicated with Ellis from about November 2005 to May 2006 and didn’t hear from him again until March 2007.
By that time, the company contends he was already employed by Wendler, an Edwardsville attorney who has brought suits against Cottrell on behalf of injured truckers.
Ellis’ testimony as an expert witness, Cottrell claimed in its suit, caused it to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements, attorneys’ fees and other costs.
Late last month, Cottrell filed notice of voluntarily dismissal. It did not explain its reasoning for seeking the dismissal in the notice.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams dismissed the case on Jan. 30.
Edwardsville attorney Christopher Byron, who represented Cottrell along with Christopher Petri, did not immediately return a message seeking comment on the case.
Ellis previously asserted his conduct conformed “to the highest ethical standards” and said in a written statement that he was pleased that Cottrell withdrew the lawsuit against him.
“I take that to be an admission that the suit was groundless,” Ellis said. “I can now return my focus to product safety, and I hope Cottrell will do the same.”
Ellis also said in his written statement that on the same day Williams dismissed Cottrell’s lawsuit, Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge denied Cottrell’s motion to disqualify him as an expert witness in a pending suit against the company.
That suit was brought by Gary Smith, a truck driver who was injured and claimed the rig he was using was not equipped with “reasonably safe ladders, footing, walkways, traction and/or hand holds.”
Mudge, according to Ellis’ statement, wrote in his order that although Ellis told Cottrell “he was not working for any plaintiff’s lawyers at the time, Ellis did not enter into any agreements with Cottrell not to discuss his design with others or talk to others, including plaintiff lawyers, about his interaction with Cottrell.”
And while the parties signed a confidentiality agreement, Ellis said Mudge noted in his order that it only required Cottrell to keep the designs Ellis shared with it confidential.
In denying the company’s request to disqualify him as an expert witness, Ellis said Mudge wrote that, “[u]ltimately, no confidential, attorney work product, attorney-client privileged material or proprietary information was given to Ellis by Cottrell and Cottrell did not pay for Nigel’s services nor buy the rights to his invention.”
“Judge Mudge saw Cottrell’s motion for the meritless personal attack that it was,” Ellis said.
St. Louis attorneys W. Jeffrey Muskopf and John Bradford Goss represented Ellis and his companies, which were also named as defendants in the suit.