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Juhl seeks dismissal of Winona County wind project lawsuit

ST. PAUL – Juhl Energy Development Inc. has filed paperwork in U.S. District Court seeking the dismissal – with prejudice – of a $3.3 million lawsuit from Unison Co., a South Korean wind turbine manufacturer. The Pipestone business also is asking the court to “compel arbitration” on the dispute.

At issue is a $4.8 million wind project built near Altura in Winona County. JEDI developed the project in 2010 using equipment purchased from Unison, which filed a 16-count lawsuit last month alleging fraud, breach of contract, tortious interference and unjust unrichment.

In JEDI’s recent filing, it acknowledges not making payments on the Unison turbines it calls “substandard or otherwise defective.”

Tim Droel, JEDI’s attorney from Bloomington, pulled no punches in his Jan. 8 filing, which accuses the plaintiff of bullying.

“Instead of honoring its commitments to remedy its defective turbines, Unison has elected to commence the instant lawsuit in a repugnant attempt to avoid its contractual obligations and browbeat payment from JEDI,” Droel wrote.

“Unison’s contentions are patently absurd and reveal – at best – either a gross misunderstanding of the parties’ transaction or a reckless disregard for its contractual duties owed to JEDI under the parties’ agreements.”

A judge is expected to rule on JEDI’s motion within the next few months. However, Unison filed paperwork Wednesday in District Court further escalating the war of words.

The South Korea company says the judge should allow the lawsuit to move forward because it actually signed two agreements with JEDI: a turbine supply agreement and a financing agreement. Unison contends the lawsuit relates only to the latter, which the contract says must be litigated in state or federal court rather than through arbitration.

“These two transactions are similar to a typical automobile purchase transaction, where a customer purchases an automobile and separately obtains financing for the purchase from the dealership,” wrote Unison attorney Boyoon Choi of Seattle, Wash. “If a disagreement later arises between the customer and the dealership regarding the customer’s loan payments, the customer would not assert that their dispute should be governed by the sales agreement.”