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Flaherty v. Guala Pack North America, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 27, 2019

CHRISTOPHER FLAHERTY, Plaintiff,
v.
GUALA PACK NORTH AMERICA, INC., et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          RENÉE MARIE BUMB UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court upon the Motion to Dismiss (“MTD”)[Dkt. No. 55], filed by Third-Party Defendant Shelby Mechanical, Inc. (“Shelby”). Specifically, Shelby's motion seeks the dismissal of the claims asserted in the Third-Party Complaint [Dkt. No. 20] by Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff Lidestri Foods, Inc. (“Lidestri”), pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth herein, Shelby's Motion to Dismiss will be GRANTED, and Shelby will be DISMISSED as a Third-Party Defendant in this matter.

         I. BACKGROUND & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The Third-Party Complaint, filed by Lidestri, seeks indemnification from Shelby in relation to the underlying claims asserted in this action by Plaintiff Christopher Flaherty (“Plaintiff), a former Shelby employee. On August 24, 2017, Plaintiff filed his original complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Camden County (No. L-003318-17), seeking damages for injuries sustained during his employment with Shelby. The case was removed to this Court on October 23, 2017 [Dkt. No. 1] and Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on December 8, 2017 [Dkt. No. 15], naming Lidestri, GEA Process Engineering Company, Inc. (“GEA”), and Clayton H. Landis Company, Inc. d/b/a CHL Systems (“CHL”), as defendants.

         Lidestri is a food, drink, and spirit manufacturer. See Pl.'s Am. Compl., ¶ 2. GEA is an engineering company that, among other things, provides and installs aseptic filling systems for beverage manufacturers and bottlers. Id. at ¶ 3. On March 24, 2015, Lidestri purchased an “ECOSpin 2 Aseptic Filler” (the “Filler”), an “extremely large and heavy” piece of equipment, from GEA. Id. at ¶¶ 2, 10. After purchasing the Filler, Lidestri contracted with CHL to oversee installation. See Third-Party Compl., ¶ 16. In turn, on August 3, 2015 and/or August 11, 2015, CHL contracted with Shelby to provide necessary labor, materials, equipment, and supervision to facilitate installation and rigging of the Filler. Id. at ¶ 17.

         In the course of Plaintiff's employment with Shelby, he assisted with the installation of the Filler at Lidestri's food processing facility, located at 1550 John Tipton Boulevard, Pennsauken, New Jersey. See Am. Complaint, at ¶ 9. On August 25, 2015, Plaintiff was injured when the Filler slipped off a dolly and landed on his leg, breaking his leg in multiple places and trapping Plaintiff under the Filler. Id. at ¶ 29. On December 8, 2017, Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint, asserting negligence claims against Lidestri, GEA, CHL, and John Doe Defendants 1-5. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Lidestri, GEA, and CHL, who all played some role in the installation of the Filler, failed to follow or enforce proper safety precautions during the installation of the Filler. Plaintiff does not name Shelby as a defendant.

         On December 29, 2017, Lidestri filed the Third-Party Complaint seeking (1) contribution from GEA and CHL and (2) indemnification from GEA, CHL, and Shelby. See Third-Party Compl., at 6-8. Now, Shelby moves to dismiss Lidestri's common law and contractual indemnification claims under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         To withstand a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)(quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 662. “[A]n unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation” does not suffice to survive a motion to dismiss. Id. at 678. “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).

         In reviewing a plaintiff's allegations, the district court “must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations as well as all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, and construe those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 358 n.1 (3d Cir. 2012). When undertaking this review, courts are limited to the allegations found in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and undisputedly authentic documents that form the basis of a claim. See In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997); Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).

         III. DISCUSSION

         In its Motion to Dismiss, Shelby argues that Lidestri's common law and contractual indemnification claims are barred by the exclusive remedy provision of the Workers' Compensation Act (the “Act“). Under New Jersey law, “the exclusive-remedy provision of the Workers' Compensation Act precludes a claim for contribution against an employer whose concurring negligence contributed to the injury of an employee.” Ramos v. Browning Ferris Indus. of S. Jersey, Inc., 103 N.J. 177, 185 (1986).

         In response to Shelby's motion, Lidestri argues that its indemnification claims against Shelby are permissible under two recognized exceptions to the Act. See Lidestri's Brief in Opposition to Shelby's MTD (“Opp. Br.”)[Dkt. No. 58], at 4-5. First, Lidestri notes that a third-party “may obtain indemnification where that course is specifically permitted by way of an express contract.” See Port Auth. of New York & New Jersey v. Honeywell Protective Servs., Honeywell, Inc., 222 N.J.Super. 11, 19 (App.Div. 1987). Second, Lidestri argues that “a third-party may seek recourse against an employer under the theory of implied indemnification.” See id. at 20. The Court finds that neither of these exceptions are applicable.

         A. ...


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