Wilson v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc.
ORDER denying 14 Motion for Leave to File. Signed by Judge Stefan R. Underhill on 11/8/2012. (Carter, J.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
No. 3:11-cv-1000 (SRU)
HOME DEPOT U.S.A., INC.,
RULING ON DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE A THIRD-PARTY
Before the court is defendant Home Depot U.S.A., Inc.’s (“Home Depot”) motion for
leave to file a third-party complaint pursuant to Rule 14(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. Because the proposed third-party complaint obviously lacks merit, the motion (doc. #
14) is hereby DENIED.
This is a personal injury action, before this court on diversity jurisdiction, arising out of
an accident that occurred at a Home Depot store. According to the complaint, on January 22,
2010, plaintiff Martin Wilson (“Wilson”) was working at the store in the course of his
employment with CRST Van Expedited, Inc. (“CRST”) when he was injured by a forklift
operated by a Home Depot employee. See Compl. ¶ 6 (doc. # 1). Wilson alleges that Home
Depot was negligent in various ways and claims damages in excess of $75,000. Id. ¶¶ 7-9.
Home Depot contends that Wilson’s injuries were caused by his own carelessness.
Home Depot now seeks leave to implead Wilson’s employer, CRST, into this action. In a
proposed third-party complaint, Home Depot alleges that, in April 2007, CRST entered into a
written agreement with Home Depot (the “Agreement”) in which CRST agreed to furnish
transportation services. See Third-Party Complaint, at ¶ 7 (doc. # 14-5). As part of the
Agreement, CRST promised to indemnify and defend Home Depot in claims arising out of, inter
alia, injury to persons or employees performing services under the terms of the Agreement.1 Id.
¶¶ 8-10. On that basis, Home Depot seeks to assert claims against CRST for contribution and
indemnification. Id. ¶¶ 11-38.
Under Rule 14(a)(1), a defendant may implead a third party “who is or may be liable to it
for all or part of the claim against it.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 14(a)(1). “Impleader is appropriate when
the third-party defendant’s liability to the third-party plaintiff is ‘dependent upon the outcome of
the main claim’ or the third-party defendant is ‘potentially secondarily liable as a contributor to
the defendant.’” Too, Inc. v. Kohl's Dep't Stores, Inc., 213 F.R.D. 138, 140 (S.D.N.Y. 2003)
(quoting Kenneth Leventhal & Co. v. Joyner Wholesale Co., 736 F.2d 29, 31 (2d Cir. 1984)).
The court retains discretion over whether to permit a defending party to implead a third-party
defendant, Nova Products, Inc. v. Kisma Video, Inc., 220 F.R.D. 238, 240 (S.D.N.Y. 2004)
(citing Kenneth Leventhal & Co., 736 F.2d at 31), and permission should be freely granted
“‘unless to do so would prejudice the plaintiff, unduly complicate the trial, or would foster an
obviously unmeritorious claim.’” Farrell Family Ventures, LLC v. Sekas & Assocs., LLC, 863 F.
The indemnification clause provided as follows:
Indemnification. Each Party agrees that it shall indemnify, defend and hold
harmless the other Party and its affiliates, and respective officers, directors,
employees and agents, from and against all claims, lawsuits, losses, damages,
fines, costs, and expenses (including reasonable attorney’s fees) arising out of or
related to (a) injury to persons, including injury resulting in death, and damage to
property caused by or in any way connected with the acts or omissions of the
indemnifying Party, its agents, subcontractors or employees in performing the
services hereunder, and (b) any breach of any representation or warranty of the
indemnity set forth in this Agreement.
Transportation Services Agreement, at ¶ 14, attached as Ex. B to Def.’s Mot. for Leave to
File a Third-Party Compl. (doc. # 14-2).
Supp. 2d 324, 331 (S.D.N.Y. 2012) (quoting Shafarman v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc., 100 F.R.D.
454, 459 (S.D.N.Y. 1984)).
In the case at bar, Home Depot seeks to implead CRST on the basis of an express
indemnification clause contained in the Agreement. But having carefully reviewed that
Agreement, I conclude that the indemnification clause, while capacious, does not encompass the
claims Wilson asserts here. As a result, Home Depot has no colorable claim against CRST for
contribution or indemnification, and impleader is inappropriate.
In pertinent part, the indemnification clause states that CRST and Home Depot each
agree to indemnify the other from all claims arising out of or related to injury to persons while
performing services under the Agreement. See Transportation Services Agreement, at ¶ 14,
attached as Ex. B to Def.’s Mot. for Leave to File a Third-Party Compl. (doc. # 14-2). The
clause further states that the injury must be caused by the acts or omissions of the party from
whom the other party is seeking indemnification. Id. Here, CRST’s employee (Wilson) filed
suit against Home Depot claiming his injuries were caused by Home Depot’s negligence. See
Compl. (doc. # 1). Wilson’s complaint alleges no act or omission by CRST (or any of its
employees) triggering a duty to indemnify Home Depot under the terms of the Agreement. Id.
True, Home Depot will defend against the suit by asserting Wilson’s comparative fault.
But even if Wilson’s own carelessness is partially to blame for his injuries, Connecticut’s
comparative negligence regime already ensures that Home Depot will be held liable only for its
proportionate share of the fault. See Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-572h. By definition, Home Depot is
not responsible for Wilson’s comparative negligence, and therefore need not (and, indeed,
cannot) seek contribution or indemnification from Wilson’s employer, CRST, under the terms of
the Agreement. Because Home Depot’s proposed third-party complaint would only “foster an
obviously unmeritorious claim,” Farrell Family Ventures, LLC, 863 F. Supp. 2d at 331,
impleader is inappropriate and the motion must be denied.
For these reasons, the defendant’s motion for leave to file a third-party complaint (doc. #
14) is DENIED.
It is so ordered.
Dated at Bridgeport, Connecticut, this 8th day of November 2012.
/s/ Stefan R. Underhill
Stefan R. Underhill
United States District Judge
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