May 19 2014

Courtroom Success 2014-23: Worcester Partner Joe Seckler, Boston Partner Kevin Truland, and Boston Associate John Babcock

Worcester Partner Joe Seckler, Boston Partner Kevin Truland, and Boston Associate John Babcock recently prevailed on a motion for summary judgment in Worcester Superior Court. The case stemmed from a motor vehicle accident in which the plaintiff s vehicle was rear-ended, and she filed suit against the defendant driver, the driver's employer, and the owner of the vehicle and the entity for whom the driver was working as a temporary employee at the time of the accident.  The vehicle owner/driver's temporary employer filed a third-party complaint against our client, a professional services/staffing company who was the driver's employer and had arranged the employment relationship, seeking contractual indemnification. We also represented the driver, an employee of the staffing company. The plaintiff alleged significant injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, resulting in permanent disability, and made a settlement demand of $6.25 million.

Kevin provided coverage analysis of the business auto policies of the staffing company and temporary employer, as well as an analysis of the complex labor services contract between the two companies, that had two competing indemnification clauses.  On a motion for summary judgment, Joe and John sought contractual indemnification from the employer based on language in the labor services contract and the clients' status as an additional insured on the employer's automobile liability policy. The temporary employer opposed the motion on the grounds that the contract was governed by Indiana law, which, if applied, would have negated the indemnification language in the contract. We argued that contract law favors the enforcement of specific provisions over conflicting general provisions, and that the intent of the parties should govern interpretation of the contract.

The court agreed, holding that the language in the labor services contract showed that it was the intent of the parties that the temporary employer indemnify, defend and hold harmless our clients in this instance. Accordingly, the court ordered full contract-based indemnification.

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