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Kruzits v. Okuma Mach. Tool

filed: November 15, 1994.

CHARLES SEAN KRUZITS AND MARY KRUZITS
v.
OKUMA MACHINE TOOL, INC.; HELLER FINANCIAL, INC.; GOSIGER, INC. V. VINCENT W. VISCO, D/B/A VISTEK INDUSTRIES, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT HELLER FINANCIAL, INC., APPELLANT



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. D.C. No. 93-cv-03512.

Before: Greenberg, Roth, and Rosenn, Circuit Judges.

Author: Rosenn

Opinion OF THE COURT

ROSENN, Circuit Judge.

Charles Sean Kruzits, an employee of Vincent M. Visco d/b/a/ Vistek Industries ("Vistek"), filed a strict products liability action against Okuma Machine Tool, Inc., manufacturer of a lathe which Kruzits alleges caused him personal injuries, and Heller Financial, Inc. ("Heller"), in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. Heller financed the purchase of the lathe and holds title to it for the sole purpose of perfecting its security interest. The defendants subsequently removed the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

In the district court, Heller filed a third-party complaint against Vistek seeking indemnification and defense under the terms of their lease agreement. Vistek moved for judgment on the pleadings. The district court granted Vistek's motion. Heller appeals.*fn1 We reverse.

I.

Kruzits, an employee of Vistek, sustained injuries in the course of his employment while operating a lathe manufactured by Okuma Machine Tool, Inc. He sued Heller and several other defendants for compensation for his injuries. Heller, who merely financed the lathe but exercised no operational control over it, took title to it, and leased it to Vistek pursuant to the security lease agreement.

In the district court, Heller filed a third-party complaint against Vistek, alleging that, under the terms of its lease agreement, Vistek should defend and indemnify Heller in the underlying action. Vistek moved for judgment on the pleadings contending that the language of the indemnity provision in the lease agreement was not specific enough to overcome the immunity which Vistek, as Kruzits' employer, asserted pursuant to the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act ("PWCA"), 77 P.S. § 481(b).*fn2

The district court granted Vistek's motion for judgment on the pleadings, holding that the PWCA precluded Heller from seeking indemnity from Vistek. The court accepted Vistek's argument that the indemnity provision in the lease agreement was not specific enough to overcome Vistek's employer's immunity under the PWCA. The court rejected Heller's contention that Illinois law should govern the interpretation of the indemnity clause because of a choice of law provision in the lease agreement.*fn3 The court concluded that Pennsylvania law should apply because Pennsylvania had a significant interest in the underlying action which justified ignoring the contractual choice of law provision.

This appeal only considers the issue of whether Heller can successfully bring Vistek into the underlying action as a third party defendant.

II.

This court exercises plenary review over district court orders granting a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). See e.g., Jablonski v. Pan American World Airways Inc., 863 F.2d 289, 290 (3d Cir. 1988). Under Rule 12(c), we will not grant judgment on the pleadings "unless the movant clearly establishes that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of ...


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