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MSP Equipment Rental, Inc. v. Gavilon Grain, LLC

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

June 9, 2015

MSP EQUIPMENT RENTAL, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
GAVILON GRAIN, LLC, et. al., Defendants.

Submitted: March 16, 2015

Upon Consideration of Defendant Gavilon Grain LLC's Motion to Dismiss MSP Equipment Rental, Inc.'s Complaint GRANTED

Michael W. Horner, Esquire, Rochelle L. Gumapac, Esquire, White and Williams LLP, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorneys for Gavilon Grain, LLC and Hector Cabrera.

Cynthia G. Beam, Esquire, Law Office of Cynthia G. Beam, Newark, Delaware, Attorney for Plaintiff.

Eric M. Davis Judge

This 9th date of June, 2015, upon consideration of Defendant Gavilon Grain LLC's Motion to Dismiss MSP Equipment Rental, Inc.'s Complaint (the "Motion") submitted by Gavilon Grain LLC ("Gavilon"); Plaintiff MSP Equipment Rental, Inc.'s Response to Defendant Gavilon Grain LLC's Motion to Dismiss Complaint (the "Response"); the Court having held a hearing and heard arguments from the parties on the Motion and Response on March 16, 2015, the Court finds as follows:

1. This is a declaratory judgment action through which MSP Equipment Rental Inc. ("MSP") seeks a declaration that Gavilon is responsible for the defense and indemnification of MSP in two separate personal injury actions filed by Frank Layne, Jr. (the "Layne Action") and Jair "Hector" Cabrera.

2. On September 25, 2014, Gavilon filed the Motion. Gavilon contends that MSP's allegations must be dismissed on the basis of res judicata and collateral estoppel. On October 13, 2014, MSP filed the Response.

3. The workplace accident which lead to this and several other lawsuits, occurred on November 10, 2011, at a facility operated by Gavilon. On that date a Genie S-85 articulating boom lift occupied by Mr. Layne and Mr. Cabrera tipped over causing injuries to both of them. MSP leased the boom lift to Gavilon. The Rental Agreement between Gavilon and MSP has the following clause in paragraph 7:

Lessee agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the Lessor against all loss, damage, expense and penalty arising from any action instituted based upon damage, expense and penalty arising from any action instituted based upon injury to a person or damage to property occasioned by the operation, handling or transportation of the leased property during the rental period or while the property is in the possession or control of the Lessee.

4. Mr. Cabrera and Mr. Layne each filed separate suits against MSP. Mr. Cabrera's suit against MSP was filed in Sussex County (Cabrera action) in the Superior Court of the State of Delaware in and for Sussex County (the "Sussex Superior Court").[1] In the Cabrera action, MSP filed a third party claim against Gavilon, alleging that Gavilon, the lessee of the lift, must indemnify MSP, the lessor, pursuant to the Rental Agreement between the two parties.[2]

5. Gavilon moved to dismiss the third party claim. The Sussex Superior Court considered the Rental Agreement and MSP's arguments and subsequently dismissed MSP's Third Party Complaint against Gavilon. The Sussex Superior Court held that a contract of indemnity will not be construed to indemnify a person against his own negligence where such intention is not clearly expressed in clear and unequivocal terms.[3] The Sussex Superior Court found that the language of the Rental Agreement does not specify that Gavilon agreed to indemnify MSP for MSP's own negligence or liability.[4] The Sussex Superior Court also held that Gavilon was protected from a third party claim due to the protections extended to Gavilon by the Worker's Compensation Act.[5]

6. MSP filed a Motion to Reargue its opposition to Gavilon's Motion to Dismiss, which was denied by the Sussex Superior Court on October 13, 2014.[6] MSP thereafter sought Certification of Interlocutory Appeal to the Supreme Court, which was also denied by the Sussex Superior Court on November 3, 2014.[7]

7. The Courts of this state have long recognized the utility of the res judicata doctrine in terms of judicial ...


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