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Compton v. City of Harrodsburg

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

September 6, 2013

SAMANTHA COMPTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF HARRODSBURG, KENTUCKY, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOSEPH M. HOOD, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a Joint Motion to File a Third-Party Complaint, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 14(a) [D.E. 47], filed by Defendants City of Harrodsburg and Ernie Kelty, in his individual capacity (hereinafter "Defendants"). The Defendants seek leave of court to file a third-party complaint against Rodney and Deanna Compton (hereinafter "the Comptons"), asserting claims of indemnity and apportionment. The time having passed for Plaintiff to file a response, this Motion is ripe for the Court's review. For the reasons which follow, Defendants' Joint Motion is denied.

I. Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants on September 25, 2012, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging Constitutional violations, as well as state law violations, arising out of Plaintiff's sexual relationship with a member of the City of Harrodsburg Police Department. [D.E. 1]. The Court previously dismissed the City of Harrodsburg Police Department, Ernie Kelty, in his official capacity, and Jason Elder, in his official capacity, as Defendants. [D.E. 24].

The Court dismissed, per Plaintiff's stipulation, the Plaintiff's First Amendment, Fifth Amendment, and Eighth Amendment claims against all parties, as well as a Tort of Outrage claim and a request for punitive damages against Defendant City of Harrodsburg. Id. Similarly, the Court, upon Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, dismissed (1) Plaintiff's claim against Defendant City of Harrodsburg alleging violations of sections two through five of the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) Plaintiff's claim alleging Defendant City of Harrodsburg violated the Kentucky Constitution; (3) Plaintiff's § 1983 claim against Defendant City of Harrodsburg, arising out of an alleged violation of Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights by Defendant Elder; and (4) Plaintiff's claim alleging negligent screening and/or hiring by Defendant City of Harrodsburg. Id.

Defendants now seek leave from the Court, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 14, to file a third-party complaint against the Comptons, the parents of Plaintiff, seeking indemnity and apportionment. [D.E. 47].

II. Standard of Review

A defendant may serve a third-party defendant without leave of the court within fourteen days of serving its original answer. Fed.R.Civ.P. 14(a)(1). After fourteen days, a defendant may only serve a third-party complaint with leave from the court. Id. The fourteen day period to freely file a thirdparty complaint having passed, Defendants may only file the third-party complaint with leave from the Court.

"The decision whether to grant a motion for leave to implead is a matter committed to the discretion of the district court, and the exercise of discretion is essentially a process of balancing the prejudices." Botkin v. Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Ins. Co. Ltd., No. 12-95-DLB-CJS, 2013 WL 3489469, at *6 (E.D. Ky. July 10, 2013) (citing Asher v. Unarco Material Handling, Inc., No. 6:06-548-DCR, 2007 WL 3046064, at *4 (E.D. Ky. Oct. 16, 2007)). For impleader to be proper, "[t]he thirdparty defendant's liability must be (1) owed to the impleading party; (2) based on the underlying claim against the impleading party; and (3) derivative of the impleading party's liability. Gookin v. Altus Capital Ptnrs., No. 05-179-JBC, 2006 WL 7132020, at *2 (E.D. Ky. Mar. 24, 2006) (citing Moore's Fed. Prac. & Pro. § 14.04 (2005)). "A timely application for impleader should be granted except when it will delay or disadvantage the existing action or the third-party claim obviously lacks merit." 6 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1443 (3d ed. 1998).

III. Analysis

The Court construes Defendants' proposed third-party complaint as one seeking indemnity and contribution, rather than indemnity and apportionment. "Apportionment relates to the division of liability in the absence of joint and several liability." Bancamerica Commercial Corp. v. Trinity Indus., 900 F.Supp. 1427, 1470 (D. Kan. 1995). Apportionment is appropriate when there are two or more causes of harm and "there is a reasonable basis for determining the contribution of each cause to a single harm." Restatement (Second) of Torts § 433A(1)(b) (1965); see also Dent v. Beazer Materials & Servs., 156 F.3d 523, 529 (4th Cir. 1998) (finding that the federal common law of apportionment is based on § 433A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts). Conversely, contribution is appropriate "[w]hen two or more persons are or may be liable for the same harm and one of them discharges the liability of another by settlement or discharge of judgment." Restatement (3rd) Torts: Apportionment of Liability § 23 (2000).

Defendants request "[t]hat, in the event that the Plaintiff obtains a judgment against the City of Harrodsburg and/or Ernie Kelty, in his individual capacity, the Third-Party Defendants, Rodney Compton and Deanna Compton, should alternatively be held to share an apportionment of such judgment." [D.E. 47-1, at 7]. The Court understands the proposed third-party complaint to request that the Comptons be liable for a portion of any judgment for which Defendants might be found liable, as opposed to an allocation of liability in the absence of joint and several liability. As such, the Court construes this demand as a claim for contribution.[1]

"A right to total indemnity may exist if the joint tort feasors [sic] are not in pari delicto and the party secondarily negligent asserts a claim against the one primarily negligent." Lexington Country Club v. Stevenson, 290 S.W.3d 137, 143 (Ky. 1965) (citing Brown Hotel Co. v. Pittsburgh Fuel Co., 224 S.W.2d 165 (Ky. 1949)). Indemnity is available in either of two situations:

(1) Where the party claiming indemnity has not been guilty of any fault, except technically, or constructively, as where an innocent master was held to respond for the tort of his servant acting within the scope of his employment; or (2) where both parties have been in fault, but not in the same fault, towards the party injured, and the fault of ...

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