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Ford v. Exel

June 11, 2009

CALVIN FORD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
EXEL, INC., DEFENDANT,
v.
RANSTAD NORTH AMERICA, THIRD PARTY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joyner, J.

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

Before this Court is Third Party Defendant Randstad North America's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 27) and Defendant Exel's Response in Opposition (Doc. No. 28). For the reasons set forth, we will grant Third Party Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and dismiss the remaining claim against Third Party Defendant Randstad.

Background

Third Party Defendant Randstad ("Randstad") and Defendant Exel ("Exel") entered into a U.S. Standard Temporary Services Agreement ("Agreement") on September 3, 2004. In accordance with the conditions and terms in the Agreement, Exel retained Randstad to provide temporary labor services. Plaintiff Calvin Ford ("Ford") was employed by Randstad and was assigned to work at an Exel warehouse where he was injured in the course of his work. Following this injury, Ford made a Workers' Compensation claim and Randstad's Insurer, in line with the Agreement, provided Workers' Compensation coverage. Currently, there is a Workers' Compensation lien against Plaintiff Ford totaling $169,858.29. See Third Party Def. Memo., Exh. C.

Ford filed a Complaint on March 4, 2008, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia against Defendant Exel Inc. ("Exel") only, claiming that an employee of Exel had caused him personal injury by negligently operating a forklift. Defendant Exel then removed the action to this Court on April 11, 2008, on the basis of diversity --- this Court having jurisdiction over the action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). After removing the case, Exel filed an answer with affirmative defenses, including that Plaintiff Ford was contributorily and/or comparatively negligent. On September 15, 2008, Exel filed a Third Party Complaint against Randstad, joining them in the action based upon the Agreement. Based on two separate contract provisions contained therein, Defendant Exel's Third Party Complaint against Randstad asked this Court to (I) direct that any and all claims by way of subrogation for payment made by or on behalf of Randstad North America with respect to Calvin Ford's claim for workers' compensation benefits be waived and order Randstad to defend and, if necessary, indemnify Exel from any subrogation claim made by or on behalf of any insurance carrier for Randstad; and (II) require Randstad to defend and, if necessary indemnify, Exel from any and all claims and/or damages arising out of the incident. Randstad filed a Motion to Dismiss the Third Party Complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) and this Court granted Third Party Defendant's Motion as to Count II of the Third Party Complaint. Randstad now brings a Motion for Summary Judgment as to the remaining Count of the Third Party Complaint.

Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate if "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the suit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

If the moving party establishes the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to "do more than simply show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). If the non-moving party bears the burden of persuasion at trial, "the moving party may meet its burden on summary judgment by showing that the nonmoving party's evidence is insufficient to carry that burden." Kaucher v. County of Bucks, 456 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006) (quoting Wetzel v. Tucker, 139 F.3d 380, 383 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1998)).

In conducting our review, we view the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. See Nicini v. Morra, 212 F.3d 798, 806 (3d Cir. 2000). However, there must be more than a "mere scintilla" of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position to survive the summary judgment stage. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. "'[A]n inference based on speculation or conjecture does not create a material factual dispute sufficient to defeat entry of summary judgment.'" Koltonuk v. Borough of Laureldale, 443 F. Supp. 2d 685, 691 (E.D. Pa. 2006) (quoting Robertson v. Allied Signal, Inc., 914 F.2d 360, 382 n.12 (3d Cir. 1990)).

Discussion

Randstad and Exel's disagreement centers on a provision in their Agreement which provides:

With respect to the insurance set forth in this paragraph 4.8, Supplier, for itself and its insurers, waives all right to claims (whether asserted by way of subrogation or otherwise) against Exel Inc. for any loss or damage covered thereby and shall defend and indemnify Exel Inc. from and against any such actions by its insurers with respect thereto.

Third Party Def. Memo., Exh. A at ¶ 4.8. In moving for summary judgment, Randstad argues that this provision of the Agreement specifically requires that Randstad waive all right to claims and defend and indemnify Exel only when claims are asserted against Exel by Randstad or its insurers. Thus, Randstad argues, as no claim by Randstad or its insurers has been made against Exel, no duty exists. However, Exel argues that the phrase "and otherwise" would include Randstad's Insurer's Workers' Compensation lien against Plaintiff Ford's profits, in that such a lien should be considered an indirect action against Exel and would trigger the provision.

As parties have argued two interpretations of the provision, the Court must first turn to the provision itself to determine if it is ambiguous. "Ambiguity is a pure question of law for the court." American Flint Glass Workers Union v. Beaumont Glass Co., 62 F.3d 574, 581 (3d Cir. 1995) (citing World-Wide Rights Ltd. Partnership v. Combe Inc., 955 F.2d 242, 245 (4th Cir. 1992); International Brotherhood of Boilermakers v. Local Lodge D504, 866 F.2d 641 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 812 (1989); Tigg Corp. v. Dow Corning Corp., 822 F.2d 358, 361 (3d Cir. 1987)). To be ambiguous, the contract must be capable of being understood in more senses than one; an agreement obscure in meaning through indefiniteness of ...


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