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Kelter v. Wasp, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

September 25, 2014

CHRISTOPHER S. KELTER, Plaintiff,
v.
WASP, INC., a Minnesota Corporation, a/k/a WATKINS AIRCRAFT SUPPORT PRODUCTS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

THOMAS B. RUSSELL, Senior District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court upon the Motion for Summary Judgment of GEMS Conveyor Installations, Inc. ("GEMS") (Docket No. 146.) Conken Systems, Inc. ("Conken") has responded, (Docket No. 151), and GEMS has replied, (Docket No. 161). Fully briefed, this matter is ripe for adjudication. For the reasons explained below, GEMS' Motion will be GRANTED.

Factual Background

As the Court has recited in its previous Opinions regarding this case, Plaintiff Christopher S. Kelter suffered a traumatic amputation of his lower right arm while operating the conveyor belt system at the FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. ("FedEx") facility in Paducah, Kentucky. Kelter's arm became pinned between two rollers near the P-12 hitch area of the Material Handling Sortation System ("the System"), the facility's conveyor belt system.[1] In this lawsuit, Kelter contends that a number of Defendants should be liable for the system's allegedly defective design, manufacture, and installation.

Conken was awarded the contract to construct the System for FedEx after a competitive bidding process. FedEx provided Conken with the System's design and the job specifications. Conken, in turn, subcontracted with a Designed Conveyor Systems, Inc. ("DCS") to create AutoCAD drawings reflecting the FedEx specifications and the Paducah facility's design. Conken also subcontracted with GEMS to install the component parts, although no written contract memorialized this agreement. (Docket No. 146-1 at 2.) On November 14, 2013, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of GEMS on Kelter's claims, as well as upon the claim for contribution asserted by Conken. (Docket Nos. 90 and 91.)

Now before the Court is Conken's crossclaim seeking indemnity from GEMS. Conken claims that it is entitled to both indemnity and contribution from GEMS should it be found liable for any damages to Kelter. ( See Docket No. 48.)

Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show "that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

"[N]ot every issue of fact or conflicting inference presents a genuine issue of material fact." Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1477 (6th Cir. 1989). The test is whether the party bearing the burden of proof has presented a jury question as to each element in the case. Hartsel v. Keys, 87 F.3d 795, 799 (6th Cir. 1996). The plaintiff must present more than a mere scintilla of evidence in support of his position; he must present evidence on which the trier of fact could reasonably find for him. See id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986)). Mere speculation will not suffice to defeat a motion for summary judgment: "[T]he mere existence of a colorable factual dispute will not defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment. A genuine dispute between the parties on an issue of material fact must exist to render summary judgment inappropriate." Monette v. Elec. Data Sys. Corp., 90 F.3d 1173, 1177 (6th Cir. 1996), abrogated on other grounds by Lewis v. Humboldt Acquisition Corp., 681 F.3d 312 (6th Cir. 2012).

Analysis

Indemnity "is simply the repayment to one party by another party who caused the loss, of such amounts the first party was compelled to pay." Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Louisville & Nashville R.R. Co., 455 S.W.2d 537, 541 (Ky. 1970). Unlike the statutory creations of apportionment and contribution, the right to indemnity is born of the common law and "is available to one exposed to liability because of the wrongful act of another with whom he/she is not in pari delicto. " Degener v. Hall Contracting Corp., 27 S.W.3d 775, 780 (Ky. 2000). "Under Kentucky law, cases permitting recovery based on indemnity principles are exceptions to the general rule, and are based on principles of equity.'" Hengel v. Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc., 2013 WL 3973167 at *2 (E.D. Ky. July 31, 2013) (quoting Hall v. MLS Nat. Med. Evaluations, Inc., 2007 WL 1385943, at *3 (E.D. Ky. May 8, 2007) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted)).

The "indemnity exception" applies in two classes of cases:

(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 the party from whom indemnity is claimed was the primary and efficient cause of the injury.

Degener, 27 S.W.3d at 780 (quoting Louisville Ry. Co. v. Louisville Taxicab & Transfer Co., 77 ...


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