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Waynesborough Country Club of Chester County v. Diedrich Niles Bolton Architects

October 24, 2011

WAYNESBOROUGH COUNTRY CLUB OF CHESTER COUNTY PLAINTIFF,
v.
DIEDRICH NILES BOLTON ARCHITECTS, INC., NILES BOLTON ASSOCIATES, INC., A. RAY DOUGLAS, JR.,
DEFENDANTS AND DIEDRICH NILES BOLTON ARCHITECTS, INC., NILES BOLTON ASSOCIATES, INC., A. RAY DOUGLAS, JR.,
THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFFS
v.
EHRET CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, INC. THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gene E.K.PRATTER,J.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

When Waynesborough Country Club determined that the renovation of its clubhouse had resulted in significant water leakage, the country club sued its architects, Diedrich Niles Bolton Architects, Inc., Niles Bolton Associates, Inc., and A. Ray Douglas Jr. (collectively "DNB") for breach of contract and professional negligence. DNB promptly filed a third party complaint against the general contractor on the project, Ehret Construction Company ("Ehret") seeking indemnification and contribution in the event it is found liable to the country club. Ehret Construction Company moved to dismiss DNB's third party complaint.

On March 11, 2008, this Court granted Ehret's motion to dismiss in part, and denied it in part, allowing DNB to pursue indemnity and contribution from Ehret only for property damage. Now, in its Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 53), Ehret asks the Court for what may best be described as a "mulligan."*fn1 In spite of the significant factual issues left to be resolved relating to the damages Waynesborough is actually seeking in this litigation, Ehret requests that the Court interpret its 2008 decision as placing a hard cap on the amount of damages DNB is entitled to recoup from Ehret in the event it is found liable.

For the following reasons, the Court will deny Ehret's motion for partial summary judgment.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This case arises out of the design and construction of a major renovation to the clubhouse at Waynesborough Country Club in Chester County, PA. Waynesborough hired DNB to design, and Ehret to construct, the new building. Shortly after Ehret finished construction of the building, water leaks allegedly developed throughout the structure, causing ongoing damage to the interior and exterior of the clubhouse.

On January 12, 2007, Waynesborough filed a complaint against DNB seeking economic and property damages for professional negligence and breach of contract as a result of alleged flaws in DNB's design, and DNB's supposed failure to properly oversee the construction process. Shortly thereafter, on March 30, 2007, DNB filed a third-party complaint against Ehret seeking indemnity and contribution to the extent DNB is found liable to Waynesborough. DNB claims that any damages sustained by Waynesborough were the result of Ehret's negligence and breach of its construction contract with the country club.

Ehret promptly filed a motion to dismiss DNB's third-party complaint, arguing (1) DNB could not seek contractual indemnity from Ehret because DNB was not a third-party beneficiary to Ehret's contract with Waynesborough, (2) DNB could not seek common law indemnity under the economic loss doctrine, and (3) DNB failed to demonstrate it was then entitled to assert a claim for contribution.

In a March 11, 2008 Memorandum and Order, the Court granted in part and denied in part Ehret's motion to dismiss DNB's third-party complaint. Waynesborough Country Club of Chester Cty. v. Diedrich Niles Bolton Architects, Inc., No. 07-155, 2008 WL 687485 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 11, 2008). The Court stated in its decision that although DNB may not assert indemnification or contribution claims against Ehret for economic damages, it would be permitted bring claims against Ehren for contractual indemnity and contribution for property damage unrelated to the clubhouse project itself, and common law indemnity and contribution for property damage resulting from Ehret's alleged negligence. Id. at *8.

In its motion presently before the Court (Doc. No. 53), Ehret seeks a judgment that pursuant to the Court's March 11, 2008 Memorandum and Order, Ehret's potential liability to DNB is limited to no more than $48,868.24 in property damage or Waynesborough's "miscellaneous expenses attributable to water clean up." In its response (Doc. No. 70), DNB disputes Ehret's characterization of the Court's March 2008 Opinion, as well as the damage dollar amount limitation alleged by Ehret.

On March 12, 2009, at the request of the parties, this Court ordered this case placed into suspense to permit the parties to pursue private mediation. Accordingly, the Court terminated the original Motion of Ehret for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 72). In October 2010, with the motion reinstated, the parties submitted supplemental briefing (Doc Nos. 89 and 90) on this motion with respect to whether Ehret's motion constituted a request for an advisory opinion. Then, in July 2011, after the Court's May 17, 2011 Opinion denying Waynesborough's motion to amend its complaint,*fn2 the parties filed further supplemental briefing (Doc. Nos. 96 and 97) on the summary judgment motion.

The Court now decides Ehret's motion.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Upon the motion of a party, summary judgment is appropriate if, "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, . . . admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials," the moving party persuades the district court that "there exists no genuine issue of material fact that would permit a reasonable jury to find for the nonmoving party." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Miller v. Ind. Hosp., 843 F.2d 139, 143 (3d Cir. 1988). An issue is "genuine" if a reasonable jury could possibly hold in the non-movant's favor with regard to that issue. ...


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