March 25, 2021

Conneaut turbine case reaches potential settlement

By Brian Haytcher | Star Beacon |

CONNEAUT – A decade-long legal battle may be over, as lawyers in the case are hammering out details of a settlement.

The legal fight between NexGen Energy Partners and Elecon Engineering started just over a decade ago, with a complaint filed in the Ashtabula County Municipal Court on March 21, 2011.

The lawsuit centered around a wind turbine erected at Conneaut Middle School. A trial took place in January of 2020, but was called off soon after it started due to disputes over documents.

NexGen alleged that the turbine they purchased from Elecon Engineering was an untested prototype, not the tested version they were promised. Elecon claimed that NexGen was inexperienced with the type of turbine that was installed at Conneaut Middle School.

Another trial was scheduled for October 2020, but was canceled due to COVID-19. NexGen was seeking $12 million in the lawsuit, and the defendants had countersued for $260,000 in unpaid invoices, according to court documents.

Brad Barmen, an attorney for NexGen, said a settlement had been reached in principal, and that the details are being worked out. Barmen said the case has been resolved to all parties satisfaction.

David Bertsch said the case should be closed in a maximum of 45 days. Now that an agreement has been made in principal, a written version must be put together. Sometimes there is a snag when putting the agreement into writing, but Bertsch said he doesn’t expect that to happen in this case.

“We’ve got the broad strokes of a settlement,” he said.

Once the settlement is filed with the court, the case will be dismissed with prejudice, meaning it cannot be brought again.

“It’s been a long, arduous 10 years,” Bertsch said.

A total of 13 trial dates were set in the case, including the short trial that took place in January 2020.

NexGen also assembled and operated a smaller turbine in Conneaut’s harbor, adjacent to the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The turbine was struck by lightning in 2017. The city and NexGen went to court over the issue, and eventually the city had it demolished, in April of last year.

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