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7th Circuit: New indemnity provision does not release employer from liability

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An employer will have to pay $4.23 million after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was unconvinced by the employer’s argument that language in a later contract superseded that of an earlier contract.

The 7th Circuit affirmed the judgment of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Indiana, Fort Wayne Division, against Davis H. Elliot Co., Inc. in Mobile Tool International, Inc., and MTI Insulated Products, Inc., v. Davis H. Elliot Company, Inc., 12-2673.

Elliot, a Virginia-based company, leased bucket trucks form TECO, Inc., an Indiana corporation. Under terms of the lease contract, Elliot agreed to release, indemnify and hold TECO harmless from liability, loss, damage, expense, causes of actions, suits, claims or judgments arising from injury to an individual or damage to property.

When Mobile Tool International, Inc., acquired several assets from TECO, it began sending out a form invoice to Elliot each month. The invoice contains a separate indemnification clause that required Elliot to instruct all persons on the proper use and maintenance of the trucks, and that Mobile shall not be liable for any losses, costs, forfeiture or damages resulting from Elliot’s failure to provide instruction.

In June 2000, Samuel Large, an employee of Elliot, was injured while using the bucket truck. Large sued TECO and Mobile for negligent design and manufacture, product liability, and breach of express and implied warranties.

In April 2004, Mobile filed a third-party complaint against Elliot, requesting that Elliot be required to provide defense and indemnification to Mobile under the terms of the lease.

The Indiana District Court agreed with Mobile and held Elliot was required to defend and indemnify Mobile according to terms of the lease.

On appeal, Elliot argued the District Court erred in concluding that the lease, as opposed to the later invoice, controlled, requiring Elliot to defend and indemnify Mobile. Elliot asserted that the invoice superseded the terms of the lease, thus eliminating Elliot’s duty to defend and indemnify.

The 7th Circuit described Elliot’s arguments as “unconvincing.”

Comparing the invoice’s indemnity provision with the lease’s provision, the 7th Circuit agreed with the District Court that the language in the invoice did not supersede the language in the lease.

 “We find that these two provisions actually harmonize very well with one another, as opposed to conflicting,” Judge J.P. Stadtmueller wrote for the court. “The original Lease set forth a broad duty to defend and indemnify in situations arising primarily from use and operation of the bucket truck; the Invoice expanded that duty further to situations before use and operation – namely training and maintenance. On the plain language of these provisions, we must conclude that they do not conflict with one another.”
 

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  • Wrong Link
    The link in the article appears to be to a different case - United States v. Michael Brock.

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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