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Owens v. Global Equipment Company, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

August 22, 2019

GLOBAL EQUIPMENT COMPANY, INC., a wholly owned subsidiary of Systemax, Inc. d/b/a Global Industrial Equipment; and HU-LIFT EQUIPMENT USA, INC. DEFENDANTS


          Greg N. Stivers, Chief Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Third-Party Defendants' Motions to Dismiss (DN 40, 59), and Third-Party Defendant's Motion for a Hearing (DN 54). The motions are ripe for adjudication. For the reasons outlined below, Sumitomo Electric Wiring Systems, Inc.'s motion to dismiss is GRANTED, and the remaining motions are DENIED.


         This action involves a non-fatal workplace injury suffered by Chad Owens (“Owens”) when, during the ordinary course of business, he and two other employees of Sumitomo Electric Wiring Systems Inc. (“Sumitomo”) were placing a piece of equipment on the factory floor when the equipment fell off the jacks and onto Owens's hands. (Compl. ¶¶ 8, 9, 13, DN 1-1). Owens alleges that two of the hydraulic jacks, which bore the serial No. HM100-0001 and 1604-HM100-0006 (collectively “HM100 jacks”), were defectively designed and caused him to sustain serious injuries. (Compl. ¶¶ 11, 14). Sumitomo claims that it has paid workers' compensation benefits to or on behalf of Owens for his injuries. (Sumitomo Mot. Dismiss Hu-Lift's 3d Party Compl. 4, DN 40). Hu-lift does not dispute Sumitomo's contention that it paid workers' compensation benefits to Owens. (Hu-Lift Resp. Sumitomo's Mot. Dismiss DN 48).

         Global Equipment Company, Inc. (“Global”) is a New York corporation and allegedly sold the HM100 jacks to Sumitomo, a Scottsville, Kentucky, business. (Compl. ¶¶ 4, 8, 12). Hu-Lift Equipment (USA) Inc. (“Hu-Lift”) is a New Jersey corporation which allegedly manufactured the HM100 jacks and admittedly shipped them to Sumitomo. (Compl. ¶¶ 5, 11; M. Guo Aff. ¶ 31, DN 59-3). I-Lift Equipment USA Ltd (“I-Lift”) is also a New Jersey corporation and allegedly manufactured, sold, or distributed the HM100 jacks. (Global's 3d Party Compl. I-Lift ¶¶ 5, 8, DN 45). Hu-Lift and I-Lift both have their principal place of businesses located at 400 Apgar Dr. Unit F, Somerset, N.J. 08873. (M. Guo Aff. ¶¶ 4, 11). Hu-Lift is owned by Jason Guo and managed by Ming Guo. (M. Guo Aff. ¶¶ 2, 5). Ming Guo is also the owner and president of I-Lift. (M. Guo Aff. ¶ 12).

         On October 13, 2017, Owens, his wife, and their two children filed a lawsuit against Global and Hu-Lift (collectively “Defendants”), which Hu-Lift removed to this Court on November 08, 2017. The Complaint asserted claims of negligence, strict liability, loss of parental consortium, loss of consortium, and punitive damages against Defendants. (Compl. ¶¶ 20-56). This Court subsequently dismissed the claim of loss of parental consortium. (Mem. Op. & Order, DN 18).

         In its Amended Answer, Global asserted cross-claims against Hu-Lift for indemnification, breach of contract, and apportionment. (Global's Am. Answer Compl. Cross-Cl. ¶¶ 1-29, DN 26). Hu-Lift has filed a Third-Party Complaint against Sumitomo seeking indemnification. (Hu-Lift's 3d Party Compl. Sumitomo ¶¶ 17-24, DN 35). Sumitomo then moved to dismiss the third-party claim for indemnity asserted by Hu-Lift, claiming that the claim is barred by the exclusive remedy provision of the Kentucky Workers' Compensation Act, KRS 342.690. (Sumitomo's Mot. Dismiss Hu-Lift's 3d Party Compl. 3-4, DN 40). Global has filed a third-party complaint against I-Lift seeking indemnification. (Global's 3d Party Compl. I-Lift ¶¶ 13-21, DN 45). I-Lift filed a motion to dismiss the Third-Party Complaint of Global for lack of personal jurisdiction, claiming that I-Lift was not involved in directing the HM100 to Sumitomo and therefore did not purposefully avail itself to Kentucky law.

         Presently, two motions are pending before this Court. First, Sumitomo moves to dismiss Hu-Lift's Third-Party Complaint for failure to state a claim. (Sumitomo's Mot. Dismiss Hu-Lift's 3d Party Compl., DN 40). Second, I-Lift moves to dismiss Global's Third-Party Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. (I-Lift Mot. Dismiss Global's 3d Party Compl., DN 59).


         The Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 as there is complete diversity between the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds the sum of $75, 000.00.


         A. Sumitomo's Motion to Dismiss (DN 40)

         Though Sumitomo does not cite it explicitly, Sumitomo has moved to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P 12(b)(6). See Tonsetic v. Rafferty's Inc., No. 14-CV-00170, 2016 WL 4083455, at *1 (W.D. Ky. Aug. 1, 2016). In ruling on a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), courts are required “to construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept all of the complaint's factual allegations as true, and determine whether the plaintiff undoubtedly can prove no set of facts in support of the claims that would entitle relief.” Grindstaff v. Green, 133 F.3d 416, 421 (6th Cir.1998).

         In its motion, Sumitomo contends that the Third-Party Complaint should be dismissed because KRS 342.690 provides the exclusive remedy against employers which have provided benefits to employees for work-related injuries. It is undisputed that Sumitomo paid workers compensation benefits to Owens. The parties disagree, ...

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