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EXXONMOBIL OIL CORPORATION v. LUCCHESI

July 27, 2004.

EXXONMOBIL OIL CORPORATION,
v.
WILLIAM J. LUCCHESI, WJL MANAGEMENT ENTERPRISES, INC. AND STEVEN O'MARA.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HERBERT HUTTON, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Presently before the Court are Plaintiff ExxonMobil Oil Corp.'s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment against Defendant Steven O'Mara (Docket No. 17), Defendant Steven O'Mara's response thereto (Docket No. 23), Defendants WJL Management Enterprises' and William J. Lucchesi's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment as to Defendant Steven O'Mara's Cross-claim (Docket Nos. 18, 19 & 20), Defendant Steven O'Mara's response (Docket No. 22), and WJL Management Enterprises' and William J. Lucchesi's reply thereto (Docket No. 24).

I. BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff ExxonMobil Oil Corporation ("ExxonMobil") seeks contribution or indemnification from Defendants William J. Lucchesi ("Lucchesi"), WJL Management Enterprises, Inc. (individually and collectively with Lucchesi as "WJL"), and Steven O'Mara ("O'Mara") for a settlement it entered into on November 18, 2002, to resolve a slip and fall case.

  The underlying slip and fall action was commenced by Bernard and Doris Nusrein in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. Mr. Nusrein alleged that on February 18, 2000 he sustained injuries after he slipped on a patch of ice on a walkway near the office of a Mobil service station on City Avenue in Philadelphia. The Nusreins filed suit against Mobil Oil Corporation ("Mobil") on November 16, 2000, alleging that Mobil negligently maintained the premises, causing his fall and subsequent injuries. On February 14, 2001, the Nusreins amended the complaint to include ExxonMobil as a defendant after the two oil companies merged. On November 5, 2001, the Nusreins filed a second amended complaint and added Lucchesi and WJL as defendants because they leased the service station. In August 2002, WJL attempted to add O'Mara as a defendant, alleging that WJL sold its interest in the station to O'Mara on February 1, 2000, and that O'Mara was the sole operator and possessor of the service station at the time of Mr. Nusrein's fall on February 18, 2000. The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas denied WJL's motion, refusing to add O'Mara as a defendant in the slip and fall case.

  On November 18, 2002, ExxonMobil settled the Nusrein's action for $175,000. The Nusreins signed a Joint Tortfeasor Release in which they released only their claims against Mobil and ExxonMobil. Mobil and ExxonMobil admitted liability as joint tortfeasors. The Nusreins did not release their claims against WJL or O'Mara.

  ExxonMobil filed the instant action on March 17, 2003 pleading eight counts against WJL and O'Mara. In Counts I and II, ExxonMobil seeks contractual indemnification, and indemnification or contribution based on negligence against WJL for their alleged failure to properly maintain and repair the service station. In Counts III through VII, ExxonMobil alleges WJL and Lucchesi breached various provisions of the Franchise Agreement and the Key Individual Guarantee, respectively, for failing to defend and indemnify Mobil (Counts III and IV), for failing to properly maintain and repair the service station (Counts V and VI), and for failing to obtain Mobil's approval before transferring the Mobil station to O'Mara on February 1, 2000 (Count VII). In Count VIII, ExxonMobil seeks indemnification or contribution from O'Mara, alleging that O'Mara was in sole possession and control of the service station when Mr. Nusrein fell on February 18, 2000.*fn1

  WJL and O'Mara have filed cross-claims against each other seeking indemnification or contribution to the extent each is liable to ExxonMobil. WJL has also filed a counter-claim against ExxonMobil, alleging that ExxonMobil breached the franchise agreement by failing to provide WJL with special management and marketing training during the course of their relationship.

  In the instant motions, ExxonMobil seeks summary judgment on only Count VIII of the Complaint, its claim against O'Mara for indemnification or contribution based on negligence. Likewise, WJL seeks summary judgment on O'Mara's cross-claim for indemnification or contribution against WJL. WJL also supports summary judgment in favor of ExxonMobil on Count VIII. O'Mara opposes both motions.

  II. LEGAL STANDARD

  Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The party moving for summary judgment has the initial burden of showing the basis for its motion. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the movant adequately supports its motion pursuant to Rule 56(c), the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to go beyond the mere pleadings and present evidence through affidavits, depositions, or admissions on file showing a genuine issue of material fact for trial. See id. at 324. The substantive law determines which facts are material. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). If the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, then there is a genuine issue of fact. See id.

  When deciding a motion for summary judgment, all reasonable inferences are drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 507 U.S. 912 (1993). Moreover, a court may not consider the credibility or weight of the evidence in deciding a motion for summary judgment, even if the quantity of the moving party's evidence far outweighs that of its opponent. See id. Nonetheless, a party opposing summary judgment must do more than just rest upon mere allegations, general denials, or vague statements. See Trap Rock Indus., Inc. v. Local 825, 982 F.2d 884, 890 (3d Cir. 1992).

  ...


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