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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after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was unconvinced by the employer’s argument that language in a later contract superseded that of an earlier contract.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 Elliot asserted that the invoice superseded the terms of the lease, thus eliminating Elliot’s duty to defend and indemnify.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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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