Harnois v. Quannapowitt Development, Inc., 92-P-159

CourtAppeals Court of Massachusetts
Writing for the CourtGREENBERG
Citation619 N.E.2d 351,35 Mass.App.Ct. 286
PartiesRudolph A. HARNOIS v. QUANNAPOWITT DEVELOPMENT, INC.; C & R Development, Inc., & another, third-party defendants.
Docket NumberNo. 92-P-159,92-P-159
Decision Date25 October 1993

Kenneth T. Weafer, Quincy, for Quannapowitt Development, Inc.

Thomas C. Federico, Boston, for C & R Development, Inc.



As between itself and its subcontractors, the general contractor, Quannapowitt Development, Inc. (Quannapowitt), had an indemnity clause in its subcontracts: i.e., a provision by which Quannapowitt would not be bound to pay any damages on account of injuries claimed by any person working on the construction job. 1 On March 3, 1989, Harnois, an employee of the subcontractor, C & R Development Corporation (C & R), fell down a flight of stairs at the construction site. He brought a third-party action to recover damages for the injuries based on allegations of negligence against Quannapowitt because of its failure to provide a safe work environment.

Quannapowitt impleaded C & R as a third-party defendant. As general contractor it sought enforcement of the indemnification provision contained in its subcontract with C & R. Several weeks before the underlying case was scheduled for a jury trial, C & R moved for summary judgment. With a nod to G.L. c. 149, § 29C, a Superior Court judge decided that under the circumstances C & R could not be required to indemnify Quannapowitt and ordered dismissal of the latter's third-party complaint. 2

Trial of Harnois' case was had before a Superior Court jury. While the jury deliberated, Harnois settled his claim against Quannapowitt for $125,000. For reasons that do not appear in the record, the jury were then asked by special verdict to find who had been negligent, as between Harnois and Quannapowitt. The jury, in answer to the first and second questions, responded that both parties were negligent and that Quannapowitt's and Harnois' respective negligence was a contributing cause of Harnois' injury. No percentage apportionment of negligence was reported even though G.L. c. 231, § 85, and the special verdict form submitted to the jury in accordance with Mass.R.Civ.P. 49(a), 365 Mass. 812 (1974), called for that response. After the jury returned its verdict, the trial judge entered final judgment for C & R upon the earlier order of the motion judge with respect to Quannapowitt's third-party complaint. Quannapowitt's appeal followed.

Quannapowitt's position is that G.L. c. 149, § 29C, voids an indemnification agreement only where there is no negligence found on the part of the subcontractor or its employees. The jurors' assessment of at least partial fault on Harnois' part in bringing about his own injuries--so the argument goes--negates the prophylactic effect of § 29C. We do not read § 29C as requiring such a predicate.

From the plain language of § 29C and the legislative history, see Jones v. Vappi & Co., 28 Mass.App.Ct. 77, 81, 546 N.E.2d 379 (1989), it appears that a contractual obligation to indemnify is void whenever it provides for indemnification by a subcontractor regardless of the fault of the indemnitee, or its employees, agents or subcontractors, and this is so even if the indemnitee could prove at trial that the injured employee of the subcontractor was negligent. We have previously noted that by enacting the statute, the Legislature allowed a shifting of the risk of loss for construction workers' injuries to the general contractor in this particular situation. See Speers v. H.P. Hood, Inc., 22 Mass.App.Ct. 598, 601...

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26 cases
  • Herson v. New Boston Garden Corp., 94-P-1285
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • October 2, 1996
    ...upon a finding of the facts of the particular accident and an assessment of fault of the parties. Harnois v. Quannapowitt Dev., Inc., 35 Mass.App.Ct. 286, 288, 619 N.E.2d 351 (1993); Callahan v. A.J. Welch Equip. Corp., 36 Mass.App.Ct. 608, 611, 634 N.E.2d 134 (1994). This furthers the loss......
  • City of Haverhill v. George Brox, Inc.
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • September 15, 1999
    ...7, 1985, would operate to nullify the Page 141 indemnification clause of the subcontract. See Harnois v. Quannapowitt Dev., Inc., 35 Mass.App.Ct. 286, 619 N.E.2d 351 (1993). Brox contends that the subcontract came into existence on March 8, 1985, when it was executed by Gordon, and that Sec......
  • Level 3 Communications, Llc v. Mci Worldcom, Inc., 995641
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Massachusetts
    • July 3, 2001
    ...is "not caused by the subcontractor or its employees, agents, or subcontractors..." See Harnois v. Quannapointt Development, Inc., 35 Mass.App.Ct. 286, 288-89, rev. denied, 416 Mass. 1106 (1993). The statute does not preclude contractual indemnification when the subcontractor consents to in......
  • Silva v. Productions, Docket: 2016-00512
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Massachusetts
    • June 11, 2017
    ...could prove at trial that the injured employee of the subcontractor was negligent." Harnois v. Quannapowitt Development, Inc., 35 Mass. App. Ct. 286, 288 (1993), interpreting G. L. c. 149, §29C. Rochester counters that the alleged express indemnification agreement does not violate the statu......
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