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COA affirms Pennsylvania proper forum for complaint

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a producer of limestone and other products must file its complaint for indemnification in Pennsylvania based on its contract with a trucking company, and not Lake County, Ind.  

Carmeuse Lime & Stone and Carmeuse Lime Inc. filed a complaint in Lake Superior Court against Illini State Trucking Inc. seeking indemnification based on their contract with Illini after one of the trucking company’s subcontractors received chemical burns on Carmeuse’s property. The injured subcontractor John Ruiz sued Carmeuse in Lake County alleging premises liability.

Before Carmeuse filed its suit in state court, it filed a similar third-party complaint in federal court, where Ruiz’s lawsuit was pending. The federal judge dismissed Carmeuse’s complaint without prejudice because it failed to allege any facts that Ruiz’s personal injuries were cause by Illini’s performance under the agreement or the negligent acts or omissions of Illini.

After Carmeuse submitted in state court the proposed amended complaint and controlling contract as an attachment to its motion for leave to amend, Illini raised the issue that Lake County was not the proper forum based on the contract between the two companies. The contract states that any legal action related to the contract shall be brought in Allegheny County, Pa.

The Lake Superior judge dismissed the complaint and denied the motion to amend brought by Carmeuse.

In Carmeuse Lime & Stone and Carmeuse Lime, Inc. v. Illini State Trucking, Inc., 45A03-1211-CC-462, Judge Elaine Brown pointed out when Carmeuse initially filed its complaint in state court, Illini didn’t know how to respond because the complaint was averred as if it were submitted by a third-party plaintiff asking for indemnification against the claims of an injured plaintiff and it did not contain a copy of the contract at issue.

“Further, Carmeuse does not cite to authority for its proposition that because Illini did not assert the forum selection clause when it responded to Carmeuse’s third party complaint in the federal action it waived its ability to rely on the clause in a subsequent state court action,” she wrote. “Carmeuse also does not cite to authority that because the contract had been previously litigated in federal court, Illini was on notice, so to speak, regarding the forum selection provision of the contract, and that accordingly it was required to raise the forum selection clause in its original motion to dismiss despite the fact that the contract had not been attached to the original complaint. Under these circumstances, we cannot say that Illini waived its ability to raise the forum selection clause with the court.”

Enforcing the forum selection clause was not unjust or unreasonable. Carmeuse is not barred under the doctrine of res judicata from bringing the complaint against Illini in the proper forum, the COA ruled.
 

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