U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit Has Affirmed Dismissal of Third Party Counterclaim Involved in an Electrocution Case

Gamesa Technology Corp. entered into a contract with Minnesota-based Outland Renewable Energy to provide maintenance for Gamesa’s wind turbines. Iberdrola Renewables Inc. runs the Gamesa-made turbines at the Cayuga Wind Farm located in Livingston County, Ill.

While servicing a Cayuga turbine, one of Outland’s employees, Aaron McCoy, was electrocuted when the turbine unexpectedly re-energized. McCoy filed a personal injury lawsuit in state court against Iberdrola Renewables and Gamesa. The case was removed from state court to federal court on diversity of citizenship grounds. Iberdrola Renewables impleaded Outland Renewable Energy LLC, claiming indemnification based on the contract and the Illinois Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Act.

Outland then filed 22 counterclaims, which included indemnification raising federal and state anti-trust claims and other state law claims. Outland was not successful in seeking a preliminary injunction against Gamesa’s allegedly unfair competitive practices.

The federal district court judge dismissed all but one of Outland’s counterclaims. The only claim to survive was the indemnification one. McCoy, Gamesa and Outland settled with each other before trial. The federal judge approved the settlement protecting Outland and Gamesa from further contribution claims under the Illinois Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Act. Further, the federal judge dismissed all the claims arising from this electrocution incident among those parties who were dismissed. Only the original personal injury dispute between McCoy and Iberdrola remained, but the court had not issued a final judgment.

Six months after the dismissal, Outland then asked the court for leave to amend its counterclaims arguing for the first time that the substantive law of Minnesota should apply because of the home base of Gamesa.

The district court judge determined that Outland had waived the substantive law argument and denied leave to amend based upon the undo delay and the futility of bringing that motion at this late date. Outland said that the proposed amended counterclaims came about because of Gamesa’s 2011 attempt to acquire Outland.

However, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s findings. Outland’s third-party counterclaims were not part of the original case, so Outland needed an independent basis for federal subject matter jurisdiction to assert those issues in this lawsuit. In fact the appeals panel characterized Outland’s arguments that it made as “desperate.” The appeals panel even said that Outland’s attempt to the raise choice of law issue as the litigation approached the two-year mark and had lost on the merits under Illinois law, was not well-received. “We do not condone such procedural gamesmanship.”

The court also stated that since Outland had acquiesced to the application of Illinois law, the district court made no error in applying Illinois law to the proposed amended counterclaims. At the end, the court of appeals affirmed the judgment that was entered and also properly applied Illinois substantive law and denied leave to amend Outland’s counterclaim based on futility and undo delay.

Aaron McCoy v. Iberdrola Renewables, Inc. and Streator-Cayuga Ridge Wind Power, LLC and Gamesa Technology Corporation, Inc. and Gamesa Wind US, LLC v. Outland Renewable Energy, LLC, et al., No. 13-3350 (U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Cir., July 28, 2014).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling wrongful death cases, worker injury cases, construction site injury cases and car accident cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Villa Park, Addison, Glendale Heights, Oakbrook Terrace, Bellwood, Elmhurst, Northlake, Clarendon Hills, Lisle, New Lenox, Bridgeview, Burbank, Chicago Ridge, Palos Hills, Worth, Lombard and Bloomingdale, Ill.

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