Federal judge OKs addition of local store employee to lawsuit vs Home Depot over saw blade accident

By John Sammon | Nov 28, 2018

Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

CHICAGO – A man injured by a circular saw blade in an alleged accident during a home improvement project has won the right to take his lawsuit against retailer Home Depot back to Cook County court after a federal judge cut up Home Depot's attempt to stop the plaintiff from adding one of its local store employees as a defendant, ending the retailer's bid to keep the matter in federal court.

On Nov. 14, U.S. Magistrate Judge Young B. Kim, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, ruled plaintiff Matt Imber could amend his complaint to include as a defendant Home Depot employee James Gross, a store employee who allegedly had provided the recommendation that allegedly led to Imber cutting his arm with the saw blade.

Home Depot had opposed the request, saying Imber was adding Gross merely in a bid to destroy the geographic diversity among the parties involved in the lawsuit that would have otherwise allowed the Georgia-based home improvement retailer to try the case in federal court, rather than local state court.

Kim, however, disagreed, saying the plaintiff had established more legitimate reasons for adding Gross as a defendant at this stage of the proceedings, saying Imber's lawyers only recently learned through depositions of the extent of "Gross' role in the events leading up to (Imber's) injury."

Three depositions taken from store employees provided facts on Gross’ alleged liability, Kim wrote.

Imber sued Home Depot after an alleged Aug. 2, 2017, accident involving a saw. The ruling states one of Imber's friends, who had been helping Imber with the project, went to a Home Depot outlet in Homer Glen and explained the nature of the project to a store employee.

The employee allegedly told the friend what tool would work best for the job, but noted  the store did not have such a tool in stock. Instead, the employee allegedly recommended a hand-held circular saw manufactured by Makita that had a separate circular blade.

The employee allegedly gave instructions how to remove a housing around the saw so that the project as described by Imber's friend could be achieved.

Imber allegedly removed the housing as instructed, but as he was using the tool its blade kicked back, lacerating his right arm.

On Sept. 21, 2017, he filed suit against Home Depot.

Home Depot had the case removed from Cook County Circuit Court to the U.S. Northern District of Illinois.

While Imber did not add the employee as a defendant until after Home Depot removed the case to federal court, Judge Kim said it appeared Imber had established a reasonable basis for adding Gross as a defendant. In addition, Kim said he wanted to avoid a situation in which the plaintiff essentially would pursue two separate cases - one in state court and the other in federal court - over the same alleged injury and negligence.

“The court recognizes Home Depot’s interest in a federal forum but does not believe this outweighs Imber’s interest in avoiding having to pursue his claims against Gross in a separate suit in a state court,” Kim noted.

Such a result would be an example of “wasteful duplication,” Kim wrote.

Kim granted Imber’s motion to file an amended complaint and sent the matter back to Cook County Circuit Court for resolution.

Imber is represented by attorney Daniel J. McDevitt of the McDevitt Law Offices P.C., of Chicago.

Home Depot is represented by attorney David J. Richards and others of the firm of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, of Chicago.

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Circuit Court of Cook County Eastern Division of the Northern District of Illinois Hinshaw and Culbertson McDevitt Law Offices PC

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