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Vaughn v. Konecranes, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

May 29, 2015

GEORGE VINCENT VAUGHN, Plaintiff,
v.
KONECRANES, INC., Defendant/Third Party Plaintiff,
v.
DEMAG CRANES AND COMPONENTS CORP.; HETRONIC USA, INC.; and CENTRAL MOTOR WHEEL OF AMERICA, INC., Third Party Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DANNY C. REEVES, District Judge.

In this personal injury action, Third-Party Plaintiff Konecranes, Inc. ("Konecranes") seeks indemnification from Third-Party Defendant Central Motor Wheel of America, Inc. ("CMWA"). The matter is pending for consideration of the CMWA's motion for summary judgment on Konecranes' indemnification claims. [Record No. 105] Konecranes opposes the motion, urging the Court to grant summary judgment in its favor instead. [Record No. 112] For the reasons discussed below, summary judgment will be granted in favor of CMWA on Konecranes' common law indemnity claims but in favor of Konecranes' on its contractual indemnity claims.

I.

This action arises from a warehouse accident involving an industrial overhead crane. On May 8, 2012, while working at CMWA, Plaintiff George Vincent Vaughn was injured when a crane, allegedly moving "independent of human control, " pinned his foot. [Record No. 1-2, p. 21] Vaughn filed suit in Boubon Circuit Court in Kentucky against Konecranes on April 18, 2013. [Record No. 1-1] CMWA's involvement in this lawsuit arises by virtue of third-party indemnity, contribution, and apportionment claims subsequently filed by Konecranes. [Record No. 24] Because Vaughn's claims against Konecranes have been dismissed, [Record No. 138] only the third-party indemnification claims remain pending.

II.

This action is in federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Because Kentucky is the forum state, its substantive law will be used. Erie Railroad v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 58 (1938); Raw v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 462 F.3d 521, 526 (6th Cir. 2006). However, federal procedural law will govern as applicable, including establishing the standard for summary judgment. Weaver v. Caldwell Tanks, Inc. 190 F.Appx. 404, 408 (6th Cir. 2006).

Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine disputes regarding any material facts and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Chao v. Hall Holding Co., 285 F.3d 415, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). A dispute over a material fact is not "genuine" unless a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. That is, the determination must be "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986); see Harrison v. Ash, 539 F.3d 510, 516 (6th Cir. 2008).

The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing conclusively that no genuine issue of material fact exists. CenTra, Inc. v. Estrin, 538 F.3d 402, 412 (6th Cir. 2008). Once the moving party has met its burden of production, the nonmoving party must present "significant probative evidence" of a genuine dispute to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Chao, 285 F.3d at 424. The nonmoving party cannot rely upon the assertions in its pleadings; rather, it must come forward with probative evidence, such as sworn affidavits, to support its claims. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. In deciding whether to grant summary judgment, the Court views all the facts and inferences drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

III.

Kentucky law distinguishes between contractual and common law indemnity claims. Thompson v. The Budd Company, 199 F.3d 799, 806 (6th Cir. 1999). Accordingly, Konecranes' claims will be addressed separately.

A. Common Law Indemnity

In support of its motion for summary judgment on Konecranes' common law indemnity claims, CMWA argues that it is self-insured for workers' compensation claims and that it has paid all of Vaughn's reasonable and necessary medical expenses related to the accident. [Record No. 105, p. 6] According to CMWA, Kentucky limits an employer's liability to a third party indemnitee to the amount paid under the Worker's Compensation Act and Konecranes' claims are precluded on the basis of double recovery. See Ky. Rev. Stat. §§ 342.690, 342.700. However, the Court need not reach this issue because liability has not been imposed against Konecranes.

In addressing common law indemnity claims under Kentucky's common law, courts have repeatedly recognized liability as a prerequisite. See, e.g., Clark v. Hauck Mfg. Co., 910 S.W.2d 247, 253 (Ky. 1995) ("Indemnity is not an issue until fault has been determined.... There can be no indemnity without liability."); Poole Truck Line, Inc. v. Commonwealth, 892 S.W.2d 611, 614 (Ky. Ct. App. 1995) ("Both indemnity and contribution depend upon liability by one or both parties to the original claimant who suffered the original loss. Without such liability, there is no independent right to indemnity or contribution."). In general, then, a party cannot recover under a common law indemnity claim if it has not been held liable to a third party. Konecranes is not liable to Vaughn; [Record No. 138] thus, there is nothing for CMWA to indemnify, and Konecranes' common law indemnity claims fail.

To the extent that Konecranes' common law indemnity claims also involve claims for attorney fees, these fail as well. Generally, each party is responsible for its own attorney fees and expenses. See Nucor Corp. v. General Elec. Co., 812 S.W.2d 136, 147 (Ky. 1991). While Kentucky courts have recognized an exception where equity indicates that attorney fees should be indemnified under common law, liability for the underlying claim is a prerequisite. Chittum v. ...


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