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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after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was unconvinced by the employer’s argument that language in a later contract superseded that of an earlier contract.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 Elliot asserted that the invoice superseded the terms of the lease, thus eliminating Elliot’s duty to defend and indemnify.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. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

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  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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