The opinion of the court was delivered by: Orlofsky, District Judge.
Once again, this Court must plumb the murky depths of New
Jersey's conflicts-of-law rules to determine whether the law of
New Jersey, Michigan, or Virginia should govern the issue of
damages in this case.*fn1 Plaintiff, Brantley Slater ("Slater"),
was injured when he was struck by a tractor trailer owned by
Skyhawk Transportation, Inc. ("Skyhawk"), and operated by Mark
Young ("Young"), both Defendants in this matter. Slater was an
employee of Reco Constructors, Inc. ("Reco"), a Virginia
corporation. See Cert. of Richard W. Yost, Esq., ¶ 4 (filed
Mar. 8, 1999); Cert. of James F. Supple, Esq., ¶ 4 (filed Mar. 8,
1999). In May, 1995, Reco was hired by S.D. Warren Paper Company
("S.D.Warren"), a paper manufacturer, to repair equipment located
at S.D. Warren's Muskegon, Michigan, plant. See Cert. of
Richard W. Yost, Esq., ¶¶ 3, 8; Cert. of James F. Supple, Esq.,
¶¶ 5-6. Slater was a member of the Reco construction crew
dispatched to Muskegon to perform the contracted-for repairs.
See Cert. of Richard W. Yost, Esq., ¶¶ 5, 8; Cert. of James F.
Supple, Esq., ¶ 28. In order to complete its work at S.D.
Warren's plant, Reco ordered materials from American Galvanizing,
Inc. ("American"). See Cert. of James F. Supple, Esq., ¶ 8.
American, in turn, hired Skyhawk, a New Jersey corporation, to
transport the materials purchased by Reco to S.D. Warren's
facility. See Cert. of Richard W. Yost, Esq., ¶¶ 5, 8; Cert. of
James F. Supple, Esq., ¶ 9. Young, a Skyhawk employee, drove the
Skyhawk truck that carried Reco's supplies. See Cert. of
Richard W. Yost, Esq., ¶ 5; Cert. of James F. Supple, Esq., ¶ 22.
Slater was allegedly injured when Young, having arrived at the
S.D. Warren plant, attempted to back his Skyhawk tractor trailer
into position for the materials to be unloaded and allegedly
struck Slater. See Cert. of Richard W. Yost, Esq., ¶ 5; Cert.
of James F. Supple, Esq., ¶ 28.*fn2
On April 2, 1997, Slater filed a Complaint alleging negligence,
recklessness, and outrageous conduct on the parts of Skyhawk and
Young. See Compl. at 3 (filed Apr. 2, 1997). Skyhawk and Young
subsequently filed a Third-Party Complaint against S.D. Warren
and Reco, claiming in part that the negligence of Reco employees
in directing Young and the Skyhawk truck into position caused
Slater's alleged injuries. See Third-Party Compl. at 1-2 (filed
Oct. 27, 1997). In the alternative, Skyhawk and Young sought
contribution or indemnification from Reco. See id. at 3. I
dismissed Skyhawk and Young's Complaint against Reco insofar as
it asserted that Reco was solely liable for Slater's injuries,
holding that Skyhawk and Young could obtain recovery from Reco
only if Skyhawk and Young were first held liable for Slater's
alleged injuries. See Slater v. Skyhawk Transportation, Inc.,
187 F.R.D. 185, 203 (D.N.J. 1999) (Orlofsky, J.).
Two motions are currently before this Court. First, Reco moves
for summary judgment on the ground that the workers' compensation
statutes applicable in this case bar recovery by Skyhawk and
Young against Reco.*fn3 See Mem. Supp. Reco Mot. Summ. J. at 6
(filed Mar. 8, 1999). Second, Skyhawk and Young have filed a
motion asking this Court to make a determination that New Jersey
law governs the issue of damages in this case. See Mot. for
Determination of Choice of Law at 3 (filed Mar. 18, 1999).
For the reasons set forth below, I find that Skyhawk and Young
are barred by the applicable workers' compensation laws from
recovering damages from Reco. Moreover, I conclude that New
Jersey has a greater interest than either Virginia or Michigan in
having its law of damages applied in this case. Under the
governmental interest analysis I am required to apply under New
Jersey's choice-of-law rules, I hold that New Jersey law governs
the issue of damages in this case. Accordingly, I shall grant
Reco's motion for summary judgment and Skyhawk and Young's motion
to apply New Jersey's law of damages.
I. LEGAL STANDARD GOVERNING MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
"On a motion for summary judgment, the court must determine
whether the evidence shows that `there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.'" Abraham v. Raso, 183 F.3d 279,
287 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). "Any factual
dispute invoked by the nonmoving party to resist summary judgment
must be both material in the sense of bearing on an essential
element of the plaintiff's claim and genuine in the sense that a
reasonable jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party."
Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248-251, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)). In opposing
summary judgment, a party "must do more than simply show that
there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts,"
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986), but a court
should not prevent a case from reaching a jury simply because the
court favors one of several reasonable views of the evidence.
Abraham, 183 F.3d at 287. "[T]he judge's function is not
himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the
matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for
trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505; see also
Abraham, 183 F.3d at 287. "Thus, while the nonmoving party must
present enough evidence to demonstrate a dispute is genuine, all
inferences in interpreting the evidence presented by the parties
should be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party." Abraham, 183
F.3d at 287 (citing Boyle v. County of Allegheny Pa.,
139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir. 1998)). "Cases that turn crucially on the
credibility of witnesses' testimony in particular should not be
resolved on summary judgment." Id.
If the nonmoving party fails to oppose the motion by written
objection, memorandum, affidavits and other evidence, the Court
"will accept as true all material facts
set forth by the moving party with appropriate record support."
Anchorage Assocs. v. Virgin Islands Bd. of Tax Rev.,
922 F.2d 168, 175 (3d Cir. 1990) (quoting Jaroma v. Massey, 873 F.2d 17,
21 (1st Cir. 1989)). Even where the non-moving party has failed
to establish a triable issue of fact, summary judgment will not
be granted unless "appropriate." Fed. R.Civ.P. 56(e); see
Anchorage Assocs., 922 F.2d at 175. Rule 56(e) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure requires that the case be evaluated on
its merits, with summary judgment being granted for the movants
only if they are entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. See
Anchorage Assocs., 922 F.2d at 175.
A. Reco's Motion for Summary Judgment
Reco argues that, as a matter of law, Skyhawk and Young cannot
obtain either contribution or indemnification from Reco. See
Mem. Supp. Reco Mot. Summ. J. at 6. Specifically, Reco contends
that the workers' compensation statutes applicable in this case
provide the exclusive means by which liability may be imposed on
employers for the job-related injuries of their employees. See
Letter Br. (dated Mar. 5, 1999). Reco contends that these
statutes therefore bar third parties like Skyhawk and Young from
seeking contribution from employers like Reco. See Mem. Supp.
Reco Mot. Summ. J. at 6. Reco further argues that third parties
may seek indemnification from employers only when the employer
has expressly agreed to indemnify the third party. See id.
Because Reco did not expressly agree to indemnify Skyhawk and
Young in this case, Reco maintains that it cannot be made to
indemnify Skyhawk or Young. See id. Consequently, Reco believes
it should be granted summary judgment on the Third-Party claims
that have been filed against it by Skyhawk and Young. See id.
Skyhawk and Young counter by saying remarkably little about the
merits of their claims against Reco. Rather, Skyhawk and Young
assert repeatedly that S.D. Warren's Cross-Claim against Reco for
indemnification or contribution should withstand Reco's motion
for summary judgment. See Opp'n Mem. at 6, 11-12 (received Mar.
8, 1999). Given that the papers submitted by Reco deal
exclusively with Reco's alleged liability to Skyhawk and Young
and not to S.D. Warren, one has the impression that Third-Party
Defendant Reco and Third-Party Plaintiffs Skyhawk and Young are
ships passing in the night. The pattern of inartful pleading and
argument in this case, see Slater, 187 F.R.D. at 188,
Skyhawk and Young's somewhat confusing opposition to Reco's
motion for summary judgment, however, was not wholly unprovoked
by Reco. In the proposed order submitted by Reco with its Cross
Notice of Motion for Summary Judgment, Reco includes the
following language: "ORDERED, that summary judgment be granted in
favor of third party defendant, Reco Constructors, Inc.,
dismissing the third party complaint and any and all crossclaims
against it." Reco Proposed Order (received Mar. 8, 1999)
(emphasis added). Putting aside the issue of whether Skyhawk and
Young have standing to assert a defense against summary judgment
on behalf of S.D. Warren, who has not submitted papers in
response to Reco's motion, I construe Reco's motion for summary
judgment to relate solely to Skyhawk and Young's Third-Party
claims and not to S.D. Warren's or any other party's crossclaims.
I will interpret the arguments offered by Skyhawk and Young on
S.D. Warren's behalf as if they had been offered on Skyhawk and
Young's own behalf.
Before turning to the merits of these arguments, I must first
determine whether Michigan, New Jersey, or Virginia law should be
applied in resolving Reco's motion for summary judgment. See
Slater, 187 F.R.D. at 193. "`To make a choice of law, a federal
court whose jurisdiction over a state claim is based on
diversity, Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Electric Manufacturing Co.,
[313 U.S. 487, 496-97, 61 S.Ct. 1020, 85 L.Ed. 1477 (1941)], must
apply the conflicts of law principles of the forum state.'" Id.
(quoting Rohm & Haas Co. v. Adco Chem. Co., 689 F.2d 424, 429
(3d Cir. 1982)). "`Before a choice of law question arises,
however, there must actually be a conflict between the
potentially applicable bodies of law.'" Id. (quoting Lucker
Mfg. v. Home Ins. Co., 23 F.3d 808, 813 (3d Cir. 1994)).
"Similarly, `the initial prong' of the New Jersey choice of law
analysis `entails an inquiry into whether there is an actual
conflict between the laws of the respective states, a
determination that is made on an issue-by-issue basis.'" Id.
(quoting Gantes v. Kason Corp., 145 N.J. 478, 484, 679 A.2d 106
(1996)). Reco and Skyhawk and Young agree that no conflict exists
between the laws of Michigan, New Jersey, and Virginia concerning
third party liability under each state's workers' compensation
laws. See Mem. Supp. Reco Mot. Summ. ...