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Muth v. Rondel at Atlas Terrace

January 8, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Genee.k. Pratter, J.


This case concerns a contractual indemnification clause between a contractor, subcontractor and property owner regarding liability for injuries sustained by the subcontractor's employee during a workplace accident. John Muth, while working on a roof on February 2, 2008, fell 30 feet and sustained severe injuries. Following this construction accident, Mr. Muth filed a Complaint against his own employer, subcontractor Thomas D. Moskella d/b/a TDM Construction ("TDM"), as well as the property owner, Rondel at Atlas Terrace, LLC ("Rondel"). Rondel filed an Amended Answer with Cross-Claim against TDM, seeking indemnification. TDM then filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint and Cross-claim, arguing that it is immune from liability under the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant TDM's Motion to Dismiss.


In his Complaint, Mr. Muth alleges that Rondel was the owner of property at 110 Sycamore Court, in Northampton, Pennsylvania (the "Property") upon which construction was being performed. Rae Homes, f/k/a Rae Incorporated was the general contractor for the Property, and hired TDM, a subcontrator, to perform construction services.*fn1 TDM, in turn, employed Mr. Muth to assist with the construction services. On or about February 2, 2008, Mr. Muth was working at the Property, on the highest point of the roof of the house, approximately 30 feet above the ground. He was "without proper clothing, footwear, safety equipment, tools and/or other safety apparatus." Compl. at ¶ 9. He slipped and fell to the ground, suffering severe and disabling injuries.*fn2 Mr. Muth brings claims against TDM and Rondel for negligence, against Rondel for negligent supervision and respondeat superior, and against unknown Defendants who may have contributed to Mr. Muth's injuries and damages. Rondel brings a cross-claim against TDM, asserting that Rondel should be indemnified by TDM for Mr. Muth's claims.

Rondel's cross-claim is based on a clause in the Insurance and Indemnification Agreement for Subcontractor of Rae, Inc. (the "Agreement"), which was executed between TDM and Rae. This indemnification clause provides:

To the fullest extend permitted by law, Subcontractor shall indemnify and hold harmless Rae Incorporated and Owner against any claims, damages, losses and expenses, including legal fees, arising out of or resulting from performance of subcontracted work to the extent caused in whole or in part by the Subcontractor or anyone directly or indirectly employed by the subcontractor.

Am. Answer at Ex. B (emphasis in original).

TDM moves to dismiss all claims asserted against it, on the grounds that the referenced indemnification clause does not cover claims brought by TDM's own employees, and TDM is therefore immune from liability under the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act.

Mr. Muth takes no position on the dismissal of TDM. Mr. Muth executed a Stipulation to Dismiss TDM Construction on or about June 25, 2008; however, Mr. Muth did not oppose Rondel's subsequent written request to the Court to vacate the Stipulation. The dismissal was vacated pursuant to an Order entered July 18, 2008.


A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45--46 (1957). Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), in order to "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964--65 (2007) (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 47). While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, the plaintiff must provide "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. (citations omitted). Specifically, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . ." Id. at 1965 (citations omitted).

In making such a determination, courts "must only consider those facts alleged in the complaint and accept all of those allegations as true." ALA, Inc. v. CCAIR, Inc., 29 F.3d 855, 859 (3d Cir. 1994) (citing Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)); see also Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (stating that courts must assume that "all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)"). The Court must also accept as true all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the allegations, and view those facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Rocks v. Philadelphia, 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989). The Court, however, need not accept as true "unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences," Doug Grant, Inc. v. Greate Bay Casino Corp., 232 F.3d 173, 183--84 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing City of Pittsburgh v. West Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 n.13 (3d Cir. 1998)), or the plaintiff's "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions," Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d. 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).

To evaluate a motion to dismiss, the Court may consider the allegations contained in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record and records of which the Court may take judicial notice. See Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rts., 127 S.Ct. 2499, 2509 (2007); Pension ...

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