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COA reverses judgment on 1 cross-claim in library appeal

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The Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library should be able to pursue a cross-claim against an engineering company for breach of professional standard of care, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

The appellate court addressed three issues in its ruling in Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library v. Thorton Tomasetti Engineers, et al., No. 06A05-0906-CV-327: whether the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Thorton Tomasetti Engineers on cross-claims against the company for common law indemnity, contractual indemnity, and breach of professional standard of care.

The library was assigned the cross-claims against TTE that were originally filed by Woollen Molzan and Partners Inc. pursuant to a settlement between the library and WMP.

The complaints against WMP and TTE filed by the library, and the subsequent cross-claims filed by WMP and TTE stem from the construction and renovation of the Central Library in Indianapolis. WMP served as architect of record on the project and WMP and TTE executed an architect/consultant agreement for which TTE served as the structural engineer of record for the project.

Shortly after construction began on the project, major issues were found in the concrete beams and columns of the underground parking garage, which would be the foundation for the new library tower. Construction had to be suspended and millions of dollars in costs and delays were accrued.

In 2006, the library and WMP settled and WMP assigned the library all the claims it has or may have against TTE and other consultants. The library never amended the cross-claims. In November 2008, the trial court ruled in favor of TTE on the three cross-claims originally filed by WMP.

The Court of Appeals upheld summary judgment in favor of TTE on the cross-claims for common law indemnity and contractual indemnity. The library, as WMP’s assignee, doesn’t possess a valid cause of action under a theory of common law indemnity because WMP hasn’t yet paid any damages in satisfaction of any claim or judgment against TTE. Because of this, the common law indemnity claim is not yet ripe for adjudication, wrote Judge Terry Crone.

Also, given the nature of the library’s claims against WMP, WMP’s liability to the library with regard to TTE can’t be solely derivative or constructive because WMP can’t be without fault. WMP’s alleged liability to the library in relation to TTE is purely contractual and direct and the library can’t now escape its own allegations and recast its claims against WMP as being solely derivative, the judge continued.

There was no indemnity provision in the contract between WMP and TTE that runs to WMP from TTE, so there can be no cause of action for express contractual indemnity against TTE. But the library argued that WMP is entitled to implied contractual indemnity. The Court of Appeals declined to adopt the doctrine of implied contractual indemnity in the instant case because WMP and TTE were free to include an indemnity provision in the contract that allocated the risk between them but didn’t do so.

“We agree with TTE that adopting the doctrine would ‘invite havoc into not only contract cases in the construction setting but throughout the spectrum of civil cases,’” wrote Judge Crone.

The appellate court did reverse summary judgment for TTE on the cross-claim of breach of professional standard of care because the trial court erred in determining this cross-claim was actually a claim for indemnity. It’s up to a jury to determine whether TTE committed a breach that directly injured WMP. This cross-claim was remanded for further proceedings.  
 

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  1. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  2. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  3. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  4. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  5. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

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