No. 1452 April Term, 1978, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Civil Division, G.D. No. 76-13909.
Herman C. Kimpel, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
Paul E. Moses, Pittsburgh, for Gallagher, appellees.
James A. Prozzi, Pittsburgh, for Ryder, appellee.
Price, Cavanaugh and Watkins, JJ.
[ 281 Pa. Super. Page 189]
Appellant appeals the order of the court of common pleas granting appellee Ryder Truck Lines' (hereinafter Ryder's) petition for judgment on the pleadings and thereby dismissing appellant's complaint to join Ryder as an additional defendant. For the reasons stated herein, we affirm the order in part, reverse in part, and remand the case to the court of common pleas for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
[ 281 Pa. Super. Page 190]
The pertinent facts are as follows. Appellee John Gallagher, a truck driver employed by Ryder, was injured in the course of his employment when he allegedly slipped into a hole in the floor of a trailer leased by appellant to Ryder. The lease agreement contained an indemnity clause whereby Ryder agreed to indemnify appellant from liability to persons injured as a result of Ryder's failure to maintain the trailer in accordance with the provisions of the agreement.*fn1 Appellee Gallagher and his wife filed a complaint in trespass against appellant alleging that his injuries directly resulted from, inter alia, appellant's negligence in leasing the trailer in a dangerous and defective condition, and they each*fn2 sought compensatory damages in excess of $10,000. Appellant filed an answer denying appellees' allegations and new matter in which it alleged that a substantial change in the condition of the trailer was effected between the date of the lease agreement and appellee's accident. Appellant thereafter filed a complaint to join Ryder as an additional defendant and alleged that the dangerous condition of the trailer was caused by Ryder's negligence and that it had a contractual right of indemnification against Ryder. Ryder answered appellant's complaint and subsequently filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings based upon appellant's alleged failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Ryder contended, in essence that as an employer in the context of the Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act,*fn3 it was absolved of liability to third parties and that appellant's attempted joinder was therefore precluded. In granting the motion for judgment on the pleadings, and thereby dismissing appellant's complaint against Ryder, the court of common pleas relied upon our decision in Hefferin v. Stempkowski,
[ 281 Pa. Super. Page 191247]
Pa. Super. 366, 372 A.2d 869 (1977) and the decision of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas in Szemanski v. Vulcan Materials Company, 126 P.L.J. 167 (1978), reversed, 272 Pa. Super. 240, 415 A.2d 92 (1979).
On appeal, appellant contends that the trial court erred in granting Ryder's motion for judgment on the pleadings because the Workmen's Compensation Act allows joinder of an employer when a written indemnity contract is in force.*fn4 We agree.
Prior to the General Assembly's amendment of section 303 of the Workmen's Compensation Act (77 P.S. § 481), a third party being sued by an injured employee was permitted to join the plaintiff's employer as an additional defendant. See, e. g., Burke v. Duquesne Light Company, 231 Pa. Super. 412, 332 A.2d 544 ...