Mercer v. Uniroyal, Inc.

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Writing for the CourtPOTTER; WILEY; WILEY
Citation49 Ohio App.2d 279,361 N.E.2d 492
Parties, 3 O.O.3d 333 MERCER et al., Appellants, v. UNIROYAL, INC., Appellee. *
Decision Date30 April 1976

Syllabus by the Court

1. Where an employer occupies a second or dual capacity that confers upon it obligations unrelated and independent of those imposed upon it as an employer, an employee injured as a result of a violation of the employer's second or dual capacity obligations is not barred by R.C. 4123.74, Ohio Workmen's Compensation Law, from recovering from that employer.

2. Where a hazard is not necessarily one of employment but is one common to the public in general, there is no causal connection between the employment and the injury, and the Workmen's Compensation Law of Ohio is not a bar to a multiple recovery against an employer.

Murray & Murray, Sandusky, for appellants.

Eastman, Stichter, Smith & Bergman and James F. Nooney, Toledo, for appellee.

POTTER, Judge.

Plaintiffs Robert Mercer and his wife Ann appeal from a summary judgment rendered in favor of Uniroyal, Inc., dismissing Uniroyal as a party defendant. Simultaneous with this summary judgment, the trial court rendered a summary judgment in favor of defendant American Stevedoring Corporation, and no appeal was taken by plaintiffs from this judgment. Plaintiff Ann Mercer's claim is for a loss of consortium arising from her husband's injuries.

Robert Mercer (hereinafter designated as plaintiff) was an employee of American Stevedoring Corporation and worked as a truck driver. On June 27, 1973, he was riding in a truck leased by Uniroyal from Avis Truck Rental. He was resting in the sleeping compartment of the cab while his co-employee, John Walker, was driving. The truck was on a hauling trip for Uniroyal. The left front tire blew out resulting in a collision and injuries to plaintiff.

There was a lease agreement between American Stevedoring Corporation and Uniroyal whereby American Stevedoring Corporation furnished its employee, plaintiff, to Uniroyal. Uniroyal had control of the truck drivers, including plaintiff, in all phases of the operation of the trucks. Under the agreement, American Stevedoring Corporation paid the wages of plaintiff, payroll taxes, workmen's compensation and employer's liability insurance, and assumed certain other obligations for the benefit of plaintiff.

The original complaint of plaintiffs predicated the liability of Uniroyal only on the theory of negligence in failing to repair dangerously defective tires, which defect was known to Uniroyal and the other defendants. No products liability claim based on a breach of warranty, express or implied, was alleged in the original complaint. On December 9, 1974, Uniroyal's motion for a summary judgment against plaintiffs was granted, and Uniroyal was dismissed as a party defendant. Plaintiffs, on April 11, 1975, were granted leave to file a first amended complaint.

Plaintiff's first amended complaint alleged that his injuries resulted directly from the defective front tire blowing out, causing a collision. This first amended complaint predicated the liability of Uniroyal upon the breach of express and implied warranties.

The summary judgment in favor of Uniroyal was based upon the first amended complaint and the responsive pleadings; the answers to interrogatories; and the response to a request for admissions and affidavits. The record in this case contains facts which required the application by the trial court of Daniels v. MacGregor (1965), 2 Ohio St.2d 89, 206 N.E.2d 554, which holds that a leased employee is an employee for workmen's compensation purposes of the party leasing the employee's services. Thus, for workmen's compensation purposes, plaintiff was an employee of Uniroyal at the time and place he was injured. Uniroyal is a complying employer within the meaning of the Ohio Workmen's Compensation Law. See R.C. 4123.35 and 4123.74. 1 Plaintiff also filed a workmen's compensation claim.

The first assignment of error states as follows:

'I. The trial court erred in sustaining defendant Uniroyal's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' first amended complaint.

'A. A litigant is not required to prosecute multiple causes of action in a single action.

'B. Plaintiffs' first amended complaint stated a cause of action separate and distinct from that stated in plaintiffs' original complaint.

'C. Plaintiffs' first amended complaint should not have been dismissed for reason of res judicata.'

This assignment of error attacks the summary judgment entry on plaintiff's first amended complaint which expresses, as one reason for being granted, 'that plaintiffs' complaint against defendant Uniroyal is subject to dismissal for reason of res adjudicata * * *.' The summary judgment on the original complaint was held by the trial judge to be res judicata as to the damage claim asserted in the later first amended complaint, although the first amended complaint proceeded on a different theory-namely, products liability based upon a breach of express and implied warranties.

The application of the doctrine of res judicata to the facts and pleadings in this case is misplaced. The summary judgment rendered on December 9, 1974, for Uniroyal on the original complaint was not a final appealable order, since the trial court did not make an 'express determination,' pursuant to Civ.R. 54(B), that the entry was the final judgment. Its interlocutory character is also apparent from the fact that thereafter, on April 11, 1975, the trial court granted plaintiff leave to file a supplemental or amended complaint. The plaintiff, pursuant to such leave, filed instanter his first amended complaint. A summary judgment which is interlocutory; subject to revision before a judgment adjudicating all the claims of all the parties, pursuant to Civ.R. 54(B); or interlocutory, because it is superseded by a subsequent first amended complaint filed with leave of court, does not permit the application of the doctrine of res judicata to the allegations of the first amended complaint. Coffman v. Federal Laboratories, Inc. (C.A. 3, 1948),171 F.2d 94, cert. den. 336 U.S. 913, 69 S.Ct. 603, 93 L.Ed. 1076; see 6 Moore's Federal Practice, paragraph 56.20 (3.-4); see, also, 32 Ohio Jurisprudence 2d 201, 396, 413, Judgments, Sections 4, 194, 209; Restatement of Judgments, Sections 1, 41, 43 and 52 (1942).

The first assignment of error is well taken.

The second assignment of error presents a novel and difficult issue. It reads as follows:

'II. The trial court erred in sustaining defendant Uniroyal's alternative motion for summary judgment.

'A. Plaintiffs' product liability cause of action was not subject to summary judgment on the basis of Revised Code Section 4123.74, since it did not arise out of the employer/employee relationship.'

This assignment requires the interpretation of R.C. 4123.74, relative to the term 'employers' and the phrase 'any injury * * * received or contracted by an employee in the course of or arising out of his employment * * *.' Plaintiff asserts that he is not an injured employee seeking to recover damages from a negligent employer, but that he is a reasonably foreseeable user injured as a result of the explosion of a defective tire manufactured and sold by Uniroyal. Plaintiff asserts that his amended complaint states a cause of action for the breach of an implied and express warranty.

The second assignment of error raises the application of the dual-capacity doctrine and whether Uniroyal was acting in a second capacity that confers obligations upon it which are independent of those imposed upon it as an employer. See 2A Larson, Workmen's Compensation Law, Section 7280, where the author indicates that the most striking example of the principle was found in the California case of Duprey v. Shane (1952), Cal.App., 241 P.2d 78, aff'd 39 Cal.2d 781, 249 P.2d 8. At page 14-117, he states the following:

'The decisive dual-capacity test is not concerned with how separate or different the second function of the employer is from the first but with whether the second function generates obligations unrelated to those flowing from the first, that of employer.'

The author, citing the case of Costanza v. Mackler (1962), 34 Misc.2d 188, 227 N.Y.S.2d 750, a truck case where a loose floor board struck the plaintiff, the truck being owned by a fellow employee rented to the employer, asserted that the question is whether there should be the obliteration of valuable and longstanding causes of action where the statutory language destroying that cause of action is unclear. Any doubt should be resolved in favor of preserving rather than abolishing the right. See 2 Larson, supra at page 14-123. In turning to the interpretation of the statute, the question arises whether under all the circumstances the action was based on the fact of employment or on some other relationship. See, 81 American Jurisprudence 2d 742, Workmen's Compensation, Section 53. A reference is made in the above text to the Michigan case of Penagos v. North Detroit General Hospital (1971), 35 554, 192 N.W.2d 542, 50 A.L.R.3d 501. In that case, the plaintiff, an employee of the defendant, cut her mouth on a foreign particle which was in a piece of pie she purchased in the employer's cafeteria on her lunch hour. The Court of Appeals of Michigan held that the plaintiff's case was based upon the vendor-vendee relationship and had nothing to do with the fact that she was employed by the defendant and, therefore, she was not required to first seek relief from the Workmen's Compensation Department. In doing so, the court affirmed the opinion of Horace W. Gilmore of the Wayne County Circuit Court. An Ohio case of similar import is Tipple v. The High Street Hotel Co. (1941), 70 Ohio App. 397, 41 N.E.2d 879. Paragraph 1 of the syllabus, which contains the facts and holding of the court, reads as follows:

'An employee was engaged by a hotel...

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