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10/21/97 BETHLEHEM STEEL CORPORATION v. MATX

October 21, 1997

BETHLEHEM STEEL CORPORATION
v.
MATX, INC. THE MANITOWOC COMPANY, INC. ROBERT SNYDER AND AUDREY SNYDER; APPEAL OF: MATX, INC.



Appeal from the Order Entered August 26, 1996. In the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, Civil Division No. 871 S 1989. Before KLEINFELTER, J.

Before: Tamilia, J., Hudock, J. and Cercone, P.j.e.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cercone

OPINION BY CERCONE, P.J.E.:

Filed October 21, 1997

This is an appeal from an order of the lower court granting summary judgment in appellee's (plaintiff's) favor. We affirm.

The lower court summarized the pertinent facts of the case as follows:

Presently before the court are the motion for summary judgment of plaintiff Bethlehem Steel Corporation ("Bethlehem Steel") and the cross motion for summary judgment of defendant MATX, Inc. ("MATX"). In the current action Bethlehem Steel seeks indemnification from MATX. The following factual background explains the basis of Bethlehem Steel's claim.

In July 1985 defendant Robert Snyder was injured while operating a crane manufactured by defendant The Manitowac Company ("Manitowac") and owned by Bethlehem Steel. The incident occurred on the latter party's premises. At the time Snyder was working as an employee of MATX which had contracted with Bethlehem Steel to perform a Finishing Building Contract ("Building Contract"). In July 1987 Snyder brought an action in negligence and strict liability against Bethlehem Steel and Manitowac. Bethlehem Steel moved to join MATX as an additional defendant in October 1988. The motion was denied. On March 8, 1989 Bethlehem Steel instituted the present action with a request for declaratory judgment regarding MATX's responsibility to indemnify Bethlehem Steel. The action was brought against all other parties whose interests would be affected by the declaratory judgment, namely, Manitowac, Snyder, and his wife Audrey.

On October 16, 1995 Snyder's suit was resolved through a settlement agreement with Bethlehem Steel and Manitowac. Bethlehem Steel agreed to pay or cause to be paid to Snyder $1,950,000.00 but disavowed any inferences that the settlement agreement constituted admissions of liability. Bethlehem Steel also stated that the "Release" executed with the settlement agreement did not "discharge its claim for indemnity . . . against MATX."

Bethlehem Steel filed the present motion on December 14, 1995. Plaintiff requests the court to grant judgment in its favor and rule that MATX must indemnify . . . Bethlehem Steel for the amount which the latter party agreed to give Snyder. Bethlehem Steel further asks the court to make MATX responsible for all reasonable fees and costs incurred by Bethlehem Steel while defending against Snyder's action. MATX filed a cross motion for summary judgment on January 11, 1996. The matter was argued before an en banc court in March 1996. We will grant plaintiff's motion and deny defendant's.

Trial court opinion, August 26, 1996, at 1-2. Following the lower court's decision to grant appellee's motion for summary judgment, appellant (MATX) filed this timely appeal in which it raises the following issues:

1. Whether an indemnification provision in a contract between MATX and Bethlehem Steel that specifically covers equipment-related injuries governs Bethlehem Steel's indemnification claim against MATX with respect to injuries sustained by a MATX employee in a crane accident?

2. Whether the applicable contractual provision contains the "clear and unequivocal" language necessary to overcome the Workmen's Compensation Act bar that would otherwise preclude Bethlehem Steel from obtaining indemnification from MATX with respect to a negligence claim by a MATX employee?

3. Whether the applicable contractual provision contains the "clear and unequivocal" language necessary to overcome the Workmen's Compensation Act bar that would otherwise preclude Bethlehem Steel from obtaining indemnification from MATX ...


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