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Ruvolo v. United States Steel Corp.

Decided: January 7, 1975.

GUISEPPA RUVOLO, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS GUARDIAN AD LITEM OF ONFRIO RUVOLO, AN INFANT, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
UNITED STATES STEEL CORPORATION AND UNITED STATES STEEL SUPPLY COMPANY, DEFENDANTS AND THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFFS, V. SUPERMARKETS GENERAL CORPORATION, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT



Kentz, J.s.c.

Kentz

Third-party defendant Supermarkets General Corporation (herein Supermarkets) has filed a motion to dismiss the third-party complaint of defendants United States Steel Corporation and United States Steel Supply Company (both herein U.S. Steel) on the ground that it is barred by the New Jersey Workmen's Compensation Act, N.J.S.A. 34:15-1 et seq., due to plaintiff Ruvolo's prior recovery of workmen's compensation benefits from Supermarkets.

Plaintiff, while employed by Supermarkets, operated a steel-strapping or wirebanding machine which was manufactured and owned by U.S. Steel and leased to Supermarkets. The machine allegedly malfunctioned, a piece of wire snapped and the wire struck the plaintiff in the left eye.

On January 18, 1972 plaintiff, by his guardian ad litem, Guiseppa Onfrio, filed a petition with the Division of Workmen's Compensation against Supermarkets and subsequently received a judgment of $15,000.

Plaintiff thereafter filed a complaint against U.S. Steel alleging, among other things, strict liability plus breach of express and implied warranties.

U.S. Steel, by order of May 22, 1974, joined Supermarkets as a third-party defendant, alleging that Supermarkets was the sole cause of any negligence in that it was negligent both in the maintenance of the machine and in the failure to give proper instructions to plaintiff. U.S. Steel, as lessor of the machine, contends that Supermarkets as lessee failed to notify U.S. Steel of the existence of any malfunctions with the machine which required the lessor's expertise as provided in the lease agreement.

Based on this alleged sole negligence of Supermarkets, U.S. Steel seeks indemnification from Supermarkets to the full extent of any damages recovered by plaintiff against U.S. Steel.

Supermarkets contends that N.J.S.A. 34:15-8 of our Workmen's Compensation Act bars any indemnification claim against them by the third-party plaintiffs.

N.J.S.A. 34:15-8 states:

Such agreement shall be a surrender by the parties thereto of their rights to any other method, form or amount of compensation or determination thereof than as provided in this article and an acceptance of all the provisions of this article, and shall bind the employee himself and for compensation for his death shall bind his personal representatives, his widow and next of kin, as well as the employer, and those conducting his business during bankruptcy or insolvency.

If an injury or death is compensable under this article, a person shall not be liable to anyone at common law or otherwise on account of such injury or death for any act or omission occurring while such person was in the same employ as the person injured or killed, except for intentional wrong.

N.J.S.A. 34:15-8 provides that when an employee has elected to accept the benefits of the Compensation Act, the employer shall pay compensation to the employee for his personal injuries. Such an election by the employee then creates certain rights and limitations, ...


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