Howard S. Wright Const. Co. v. F. E. DeBeer Mechanical Const. Co., 14832

Citation604 P.2d 323, 185 Mont. 47
Case DateJanuary 16, 1980
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Montana

Berg, Angel, Morgan & Coil, Bozeman, Ben E. Berg, Jr., argued, Bozeman, for defendants and appellants.

Brown, Pepper & Kommers, Bozeman, Gene I. Brown argued, Bozeman, for plaintiffs and respondents.

SHEEHY, Justice.

This appeal is by DeBeer Mechanical Construction Company from a judgment entered against it in the Fifth Judicial District, Madison County.

Big Sky of Montana, Inc. (Big Sky) is the developer of a condominium project known as Stillwater Condominiums located in Madison County, Montana. By written contract dated April 19, 1973, Big Sky entered into a contract with Howard S. Wright Construction Company (Wright) whereby Wright became the general contractor for the construction of the condominiums.

Wright entered into a subcontract with F. E. DeBeer Mechancial Construction Company (DeBeer) under the terms of which DeBeer was to do the plumbing and mechanical work on the condominiums. DeBeer commenced work under a verbal agreement during the spring of 1973. The verbal agreement was reduced to writing on August 15, 1973. The subcontract between Wright and DeBeer contains an indemnity provision as follows:

"(1) To indemnify and save harmless the CONTRACTOR from and against any and all suits, claims, actions, losses, costs, penalties, and damages, of whatsoever kind or nature, including attorney's fees, arising out of, in connection with, or incident to the SUBCONTRACTOR'S performance of this SUBCONTRACT."

Regene Shannon was a plumber employed by DeBeer. On October 4, 1973, Shannon arrived for work at Building B of the Stillwater Condominiums. Shannon was scheduled to work on the second floor of the building, but Wright had failed to provide access to the second floor. Wright had transferred its framing crew to another project at Big Sky. While Shannon was attempting to gain access through a second floor window, his ladder slipped and Shannon fell to the ground suffering severe injuries to his right ankle.

Shannon filed a personal injury suit against Wright, DeBeer and Big Sky on October 3, 1975. During the course of the suit Shannon entered into a "stipulation of dismissal" with DeBeer on November 9, 1977 in consideration of payment of $3,000 by DeBeer. Continuing the cause against Wright and Big Sky, Shannon obtained judgment against both in the amount of $250,000. The case was appealed and affirmed by this Court in Shannon v. Howard S. Wright Const. Co. (1979), Mont., 593 P.2d 438, 36 St.Rep. 632. Wright and its insurer paid the full amount of the judgment and did not seek contribution from Big Sky.

Subsequently Wright brought this declaratory judgment action attempting to place the ultimate responsibility for the personal injury judgment on DeBeer and its insurers. Two claims for relief were alleged in Wright's amended complaint: (1) that DeBeer was required to indemnify Wright based upon an indemnity provision contained in the subcontract, and (2) that DeBeer breached a provision of the subcontract by not having Wright named as an additional insured on DeBeer's insurance coverage.

Trial was held on September 25, 1978, and the District Court entered judgment in favor of Wright on January 19, 1979. The District Court concluded that Wright was passively negligent and that the indemnity clause in the subcontract is clear, unambiguous and intended to cover All suits. It therefore rendered DeBeer liable to indemnify Wright.

It is from this judgment DeBeer appeals setting forth the following issues for our review:

(1) Does the indemnity provision in the subcontract protect Wright, the indemnitee, from its own negligence?

(2) Was Wright, the indemnitee, actively negligent?

(3) Can DeBeer be required to pay Big Sky's portion of the personal injury judgment?

Recently, this Court held that an employer who had paid an employee benefits pursuant to a Workers' Compensation claim is not subject to further liability arising out of the injuries of the employee as to a third party claiming contribution for indemnity...

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4 cases
  • Slater v. Central Plumbing & Heating Co., 97-625.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • October 21, 1999
    ...is not permitted under Montana law. See § 39-71-411, MCA; Howard S. Wright Constr. Co. v. F.E. DeBeer Mechanical Constr. Co., (1979) 185 Mont. 47, 50, 604 P.2d 323, 325. Section 39-71-411, MCA, [A]n employer is not subject to any liability whatever for the death of or personal injury to an ......
  • Raisler v. Burlington Northern R. Co., 84-372
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • April 8, 1986
    ...Court did not rule on contractual indemnity. Contractual indemnity was considered in Howard S. Wright Const. v. F.E. DeBeer Mech. (1979), 185 Mont. 47, 604 P.2d 323. Wright Const. allowed recovery by the plaintiff under a contractual indemnification provision executed by DeBeer, a subcontra......
  • Slater v. Central Plumbing and Heating Co., 95-369
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • March 21, 1996
    ...367, 369-70, 639 P.2d 521, 523. We note that American relies on our opinion in Howard S. Wright Constr. v. F.E. DeBeer Mechanical (1980), 185 Mont. 47, 49, 604 P.2d 323, 325, which expresses a contrary holding on facts similar to the instant case. However, since Howard S. Wright was decided......
  • Cox v. Brinderson Corp., 91-35769
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 7, 1992
    ...or 'passive' as well as 'primary' and 'secondary' negligence is inappropriate." Wright Constr. Co. v. F.E. DeBeer Mechanical Constr. Co., 185 Mont. 47, 604 P.2d 323, 326 (1979) (quotations Here Article 14 of the contract in effect between Pioneer and Brinderson at the time of Cox's injury p......

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