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Ingersoll Milling Machine Co. v. Granger

decided: November 16, 1987.

INGERSOLL MILLING MACHINE CO., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JOHN P. GRANGER, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Western Division, No. 79 C 20076, Stanley J. Roszkowski, Judge.

Wood, Jr., Coffey, and Ripple, Circuit Judges.

Author: Ripple

RIPPLE, Circuit Judge.

Appellant, Ingersoll Milling Machine Co. (Ingersoll), appeals from a judgment enforcing a money judgment rendered by the Cour de Cassation of Belgium, that country's court of last resort, in favor of appellee, John P. Granger. Ingersoll argues that the Belgian judgment should not have been recognized by the district court. Because we find no merit to Ingersoll's arguments, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I

Background

A. Employment Relationship

In 1963, Mr. Granger began working for Ingersoll at its office in Rockford, Illinois. He resigned on June 23, 1967. However, on February 12, 1968, Ingersoll again hired Mr. Granger in Rockford. From February 12, 1968 until sometime in the autumn of 1971, Mr. Granger worked as a project manager at Ingersoll's Rockford offices.

In 1971, by agreement of the parties, Mr. Granger began working for an Ingersoll subsidiary, Ingersoll Manufacturing Consultants (the Belgian Company or Belgian Subsidiary), in Brussels, Belgium. At the time of his transfer, Mr. Granger negotiated an agreement with Ingersoll governing his transfer. This agreement provided, among other things, for the payment of Mr. Granger's salary, insurance and expenses, and set forth how these matters would be affected by his move from Illinois to Belgium.

In 1975, Mr. Granger became the manager of the Belgian Subsidiary. When Mr. Granger attained this new position, he was placed on the payroll of the Belgian Company. He also was declared by the Belgian Company. He also was declared by the Belgian Company for tax purposes in Belgium. As of December 31, 1977, Mr. Granger's employment with the Belgian Company was terminated. Mr. Granger subsequently obtained employment with a company in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, although he continued to live in Belgium.

B. Litigation

1. Initiation of the Belgian Action

On April 27, 1978, Mr. Granger brought suit against Ingersoll and the Belgian Company in the Brussels' labor court. The basis of Mr. Granger's action was that, because he had been employed in Belgium from 1971 through 1977, he was entitled, under Belgian law, to certain compensation and termination benefits from both Ingersoll and the Belgian Company.

Both defendants appeared and answered Mr. Granger's complaint. The Belgian Company claimed that Mr. Granger was an employee of Ingersoll only, and that, therefore, he could obtain no relief against the Belgian Company. Ingersoll claimed that, because of the agreement executed by Mr. Granger and Ingersoll prior to Mr. Granger's transfer to Brussels, the employment relationship was governed by Illinois law. Both defendants also brought counterclaims against Mr. Granger for advances that had been made to him while he was employed in Belgium. These claims related to "social security taxes, and educational, travel, salary, and insurance expenses." Appellee's Br. at 4.

2. Initiation of the Illinois Action

In August 1979, Ingersoll brought suit in the Winnebago County (Illinois) Circuit Court against Mr. Granger. Ingersoll sought a declaratory judgment that Mr. Granger was entitled to no further benefits from Ingersoll. Moreover, Ingersoll sought the return of funds advanced to Mr. Granger. Finally, Ingersoll sought to enjoin Mr. Granger from proceeding with the Belgian suit. Mr. Granger removed the Illinois suit to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. He also sought to dismiss the case on the ground that an action regarding the same dispute was then pending in Belgium and on the ground of forum non conveniens. The district court denied Mr. Granger's motion. The district court held that the pendency of the Belgian action did not deprive it of jurisdiction. Moreover, the court found that many of the factors to be considered in deciding a forum non conveniens claim indicated that Illinois might be a more convenient forum than Belgium. Finally, the court granted Mr. Granger's motion to dismiss Count III of Ingersoll's complaint which sought to enjoin the Belgian proceedings.

3. Judgment in the Belgian Action

On March 20, 1980, the Belgian trial court found for Mr. Granger on his complaint and for Ingersoll and the Belgian Company on the counterclaims. The award for Mr. Granger on his complaint was against Ingersoll and the Belgian Company jointly. However, the awards on the counterclaims against Mr. Granger were entered separately for Ingersoll and for the Belgian Company. On appeal, the Belgian Labour Court of Appeal affirmed the holding of the trial court. The appellate court, however, relied on a different rationale. It reasoned that, even though the parties originally may have desired to have their relationship governed by Illinois law, the relationship between Ingersoll and the Belgian Company, and Mr. Granger's employment by both entities, also gave Belgium an interest in the employment relationship. Therefore, the court found that Belgian law applied to the employment relationship and that certain laws of "police and security" were applicable to both Ingersoll and the Belgian Company. The court also affirmed the awards on the counterclaims.

In addition to affirming the trial court, the appellate court assessed interest on the two awards. The interest was awarded at the rate of 8 percent through July 31, 1981 and 12 percent thereafter until payment. Appellee's Br. at 7.

The Belgian Court de Cassation affirmed the appellate court's decision on June 3, 1985. The court held that Ingersoll owed Mr. Granger 3,860,081 BF (Belgian francs) and that Mr. Granger owed Ingersoll 371,218 BF and the Belgian Company 428,233 BF. These awards also included the interest assessed by the appellate court.

4. Recognition of the Belgian Judgment

After the Belgian trial court had rendered its judgment, Mr. Granger filed a second motion to dismiss Ingersoll's suit in the district court. This motion was based on the contention that the action was barred by res judicata. Ingersoll opposed Mr. Granger's motion, filed a motion to compel discovery, and sought leave to add another count to its complaint seeking the return of certain funds advanced to Mr. Granger. The court referred the matter to a magistrate. The magistrate recommended dismissal on res judicata grounds. The district court, rather than relying on the magistrate's recommendation, stayed further proceedings pending the outcome of the Belgian appellate process.

After the Labour Court of Appeal issued its decision, Mr. Granger filed a counterclaim in the Illinois suit seeking enforcement of the Belgian judgment. Before the district court made any ruling, however, Ingersoll appealed the Belgian decision to the Court de Cassation.

On March 24, 1986, the district court ruled against Ingersoll on its complaint and granted summary judgment to Mr. Granger on his counterclaim. Ingersoll Milling Mach. Co. v. Granger, 631 F. Supp. 314 (N.D. Ill. 1986). In so ruling, the court found that the Belgian judgment met the requirements of the Illinois Uniform Foreign Money-Judgments Recognition Act (the Act or the Uniform Act), Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 110, paras. 12-618 to -626 (1986). Specifically, the court held that the Belgian judgment was "conclusive" under the Uniform Act because the Belgian courts had jurisdiction over the dispute and had used procedures compatible with the requirements of due process of law. Ingersoll Millin Mach. Co., 631 F. Supp. at 316-17. The court also held that recognition of this "conclusive" foreign judgment was proper under the Act because the judgment was not rendered under circumstances making its enforcement repugnant to Illinois public policy and because there was no prior agreement between the parties to settle any disputes between them in a different forum. Id. at 318. Moreover, the district court found that the Uniform Act had rejected the requirement of reciprocity. Id. Finally, the district court denied Ingersoll's motion to add Count IV to its complaint because, according to the court, Ingersoll could have brought this claim in the Belgian suit but had failed to do so. Id. at 315 n.1.

After further briefing, the district court also issued a judgment that set forth specific amounts for the damage award, including interest. Ingersoll M illing Mach. Co. v. Granger, No. 79 C 20076, final judgment (N.D. Ill. July 3, 1986); R.80. The court held that Mr. Granger was entitled to the full amount of the Belgian judgment plus the interest that automatically accrued under Belgian law on that judgment up to the date that the district court entered its judgment. Id. at 2-3. The court adopted the federal "judgment-day" rule for converting foreign currency to American dollars. Under this rule, the court applied the exchange rate on July 3, 1986, the date that the district court's judgment was entered. Id. at 3. Thus, the district court awarded Mr. Granger $144,277.85. Id. at 4. In making this award, the district court did not permit Ingersoll to take advantage of the set-off awarded by the Belgian judgment to the Belgian Subsidiary. The court only allowed Ingersoll to set-off the amount that it had been awarded under the Belgian judgment. Id. at 3-4.

5. Appeal

On appeal, Ingersoll raises four challenges to the district court's March 24, 1986 order: 1) that the court improperly stayed the action in the district court because of the pendency of the Belgian action; 2) that the Belgian judgment was not entitled to recognition under paragraph 12-621(a) of the Uniform Act; 3) that, even if the Belgian judgment were entitled to recognition under paragraph 12-621(a) of the Uniform Act; 3) that, even if the Belgian judgment were entitled to recognition under subparagraph (a) of paragraph 12-621, the district court should not have recognized the judgment because of the considerations expressed in subparagraph (b) of paragraph 12-621; and 4) that the district court improperly denied Ingersoll's Motion to add Count IV to its complaint. Ingersoll also challenges the district court's final judgment, claiming that: 1) the district court should not have awarded prejudgment interest; 2) the district court applied the wrong exchange rate in converting the award from Belgian francs to American dollars; and 3) Ingersoll should have been permitted to benefit from the set-off awarded to its Belgian Subsidiary by the Belgian judgment.

II

Discussi ...


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