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Kelter v. Wasp, Inc.

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

September 30, 2014

WASP, INC., a Minnesota Corporation, a/k/a WATKINS AIRCRAFT SUPPORT PRODUCTS, et al., Defendants.


THOMAS B. RUSSEL, Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon the Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment of Crossclaim Defendant Designed Conveyor Systems, Inc. ("DCS"). (Docket No. 145). Crossclaim Plaintiff Conken Systems, Inc. ("Conken") has responded, (Docket No. 149), and DCS has replied, (Docket No. 150). Fully briefed, this matter is ripe for adjudication. For the reasons set forth below, DCS's Motion will be GRANTED.

Factual Background

Plaintiff Christopher S. Kelter worked as a package handler at the Paducah, Kentucky, FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. ("FedEx") facility. On April 7, 2011, Kelter worked the "inbound" shift, requiring him to unload packages from tractor trailers and distribute them onto delivery trucks using conveyor belts. Kelter attempted to clear an obstructed package, but tripped and fell while walking across the moving conveyor belt. His arm was pinned between two rollers located near the P-12 hitch area.[1] The resultant traumatic injury ultimately led to the amputation of Kelter's lower right arm.

Conken manufactured the machinery at issue, known as a "material handling sortation system." As Conken has explained, "This system is a series of conveyors, chutes, and tables used for sorting inbound and outbound packages for delivery to FedEx Ground customers in Paducah and beyond." (Docket No. 111-1 at 1.) After Conken won the FedEx job through a competitive bidding process, it subcontracted with DCS to manufacture the conveyor components and produce AutoCAD drawings for the Paducah facility. Specifically, DCS designed and manufactured various component parts and tailored the project's specifications to the size constraints of the Paducah facility. (Docket No. 149 at 2.) DCS relied solely upon FedEx's specifications and made no attempt to alter or improve the system. (Docket No. 145-1 at 2.)[2] DCS's involvement ceased once it shipped the component parts to FedEx; the company installed no part of the conveyor system. (Docket No. 145-2 at 3.)

Kelter's claims against DCS were dismissed as time-barred in the Court's Order of March 11, 2014. (Docket No. 118.) However, Conken has asserted a crossclaim for common law indemnity and contribution from DCS for any damages that it may be required to remit to Kelter. (Docket No. 47.) In the instant Motion, DCS disputes any obligation to indemnify Conken. (Docket No. 145.) Conken responds that should a jury accede to Kelter's contention that the system was negligently designed, Conken is indeed entitled to indemnity by DCS as the designer of the component parts. (Docket No. 149 at 1.)

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).


I. Common law indemnity

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.

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

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