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Finney v. CSX Transportation

November 4, 2009

CRAIG FINNEY
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., ET AL



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Background

In this personal injury action where the plaintiff seeks damages for work related injuries, we must decide whether the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act precludes enforcement of a general indemnity provision in the contract between the tortfeasor and the plaintiff's employer. Before deciding that issue, we must determine whether Florida law, the contractual choice, or Pennsylvania law governs.

Facts

Plaintiff Craig Finney ("Finney") was driving a van for his employer, Professional Transportation, Inc. ("PTI"), which had a contract with the defendant CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSX") to transport CSX employees, when the van was struck by a CSX train. Finney claims that the accident was caused by CSX and its employees' negligence. In its answer, CSX blames the accident solely or partly on Finney's negligence. Invoking the indemnity provision of its contract with PTI, CSX has filed a third party complaint against PTI seeking indemnification.

Moving to dismiss the third party complaint, PTI argues that the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act provides the exclusive remedy for employees injured on the job and immunizes it, as Finney's employer, from claims for indemnification by third parties. PTI contends that its agreement to indemnify CSX for claims does not extend to claims brought by PTI employees against CSX. It also contends that the Florida choice of law clause is unenforceable because Pennsylvania has a strong public policy in protecting the provisions in the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act.

Opposing PTI's motion, CSX argues that the parties agreed that Florida law applies and a third party may seek indemnification from a claimant's employer under Florida's Workers Compensation Act. Thus, PTI is not immune for this action for indemnification.

Before determining whether the indemnity agreement permits CSX to assert a cause of action for indemnity and contribution against Finney's employer, we must decide the choice of law question. Then, we shall determine whether the indemnity agreement is enforceable.

Motion to Dismiss Standard

When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint are accepted as true and viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs. Holk v. Snapple Beverage Corp., 575 F.3d 329, 334 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008)). A complaint must contain enough facts to give the defendant "fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 55 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. V. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). It must show that the plaintiff is entitled to relief.

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim "tests the legal sufficiency of plaintiff's claim." Petruska v. Gannon University, 462 F.3d 294, 302 (3d Cir. 2006). Additionally, where a bar to relief is apparent from the face of the complaint, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) may be granted. Leveto v. Lapina, 258 F.3d 156, 161 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing ALA, Inc. v. CCAIR, Inc., 29 F.3d 855, 859 (3d Cir. 1994)).

Discussion

Choice of Law

A federal court sitting in diversity must apply the forum state's choice of law rules. LeJeune v. Bliss-Salem, Inc., 85 F.3d 1069, 1071 (1996) (citing Klaxson v. Stentor Electric Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487. 496 (1941). Hence, in ...


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