R. R. Donnelley & Sons, Co. v. Henry-Williams, Inc.

Decision Date29 June 1981
Docket NumberNo. 3-181A22,INC,HENRY-WILLIAM,3-181A22
Citation422 N.E.2d 353
PartiesR. R. DONNELLEY & SONS, CO., and Protection Mutual Insurance Company, Appellants-Plaintiffs, v., Appellee-Defendant.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

Patrick W. Harrison, Cline, King & Beck, Columbus, Mario C. Ciano, Pro Hac Vice, Reminger & Reminger, Cleveland, Ohio, for appellants-plaintiffs.

Richard R. McDowell, Hill, Fulwider & McDowell, Indianapolis, for appellee-defendant.

STATON, Judge.

R. R. Donnelley & Sons, Co. and Protection Mutual Insurance Company 1 (Donnelley) filed an action seeking damages in the amount of $119,053.79 against contractor Henry-Williams, Inc. Donnelley alleged that the contractor's negligence, in failing to adequately protect its property during a construction project, proximately caused the damages suffered when one of the sprinkler heads on the sprinkler system in an adjoining building froze and burst. Donnelley also alleged that Henry-Williams had breached its contract by failing to adequately protect its inventory and work in progress. 2 The court granted a summary judgment for Henry-Williams and concluded that Donnelley was not entitled to recover upon either the negligence or the contract theory.

On appeal, Donnelley asks whether the trial court erred in granting the summary judgment and in concluding that the contractor was relieved of liability for any property damage loss covered by the owner's insurance.

We reverse.

Donnelley contends that there are genuine issues of material fact as to the interpretation of certain provisions of the construction contract between Donnelley and Henry-Williams. We agree. In granting the summary judgment, the court concluded that Article 10 of the contract provided that "there shall be no risk to the defendant with respect to any loss which may be covered by the insurance of plaintiff including under Article 13(C) of the contract loss coverable under the sprinkler damage coverage of plaintiff." The provisions upon which the court relied are as follows:


"A. All of Contractor's operations shall be conducted in such a manner that Owner's property and the work and property of others is protected from damage or loss at all times during Contractor's work. However, notwithstanding those precautionary actions or provisions taken or made by Contractor, if any, Contractor shall be responsible for any damage or loss arising out of Contractor's operations, except those due directly to the acts or omissions of Owner, errors in written information furnished Contractor by Owner, or as may be covered by Owner's insurance."

"C. Owner's and Contractor's Responsibilities for Fire and Extended Coverages Insurance Hazards:

1. Owner shall assume responsibility for maintaining Fire and Extended Coverage Insurance, including vandalism, malicious mischief, and where applicable, sprinkler damage, to cover not less than the value of work performed and materials delivered to the site of the project which are to be included and remain a part of the permanent construction, whether or not installed, except as otherwise provided in paragraph 4, hereof. Contractor and/or subcontractor shall not be liable for loss or damage to such work or materials caused by fire or other perils hereinbefore enumerated, normally insured against by fire and extended coverage insurance policies; and the policies maintained by Owner to cover such value shall include without specifically naming any party other than Owner in said policies, any interests of Contractor or subcontractors in such work performed and materials delivered."

When reviewing the granting of a summary judgment, this Court will only look to see whether there are any genuine issues of material fact and whether the trial court correctly applied the law. Krueger v. Bailey (1980), Ind.App., 406 N.E.2d 665. The party seeking the summary judgment has the burden of establishing that there are no material facts in controversy and any doubt will be resolved against the movant. Ang v. Hospital Corp. of America (1979), Ind.App., 395 N.E.2d 441. The evidentiary matters before the court are, therefore, to be construed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Krueger, supra. Even if the facts are not in dispute, a summary judgment is inappropriate when the information before the court reveals a good faith dispute as to the inferences to be drawn from those facts. Hale v. Peabody Coal Company (1976), 168 Ind.App. 336, 343 N.E.2d 316.

In order for this Court to affirm the granting of the summary judgment, it would be necessary for us to be convinced that there are no genuine issues of material fact as to the interpretation of the contract-at-issue. Such, however, is not the case.

It is the duty of the court to interpret a contract so as to ascertain the intent of the parties. It must accept an interpretation of the contract which harmonizes its provisions as opposed to one which causes the provisions to be conflicting. Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corp. v. Moll (1976), 264 Ind. 356, 344 N.E.2d 831. The meaning of a contract is to be determined from an examination of all of its provisions, not from a consideration of individual words, phrases or even paragraphs read alone. Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corp., supra; Oser v. Commercial U. Ins. Companies (1980), Ind.App., 409 N.E.2d 706.

In interpreting a written contract, the court will attempt to determine the intent of the parties at the time the contract was made as disclosed by the language used to express their rights and duties. Shahan v. Brinegar (1979), Ind.App., 390 N.E.2d 1036. If the contract is ambiguous 3 or uncertain in its terms and if the meaning of the contract is to be determined by extrinsic evidence, its construction is a matter for the fact finder. Rules of contract construction and extrinsic evidence may be employed in giving effect to the parties'...

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    ...Citizens Bank & Trust Co. of Washington v. Gibson, (1984) Ind.App., 463 N.E.2d 276 trans. pending; R.R. Donnelley & Sons, Co. v. Henry-Williams, Inc., (1981) Ind.App., 422 N.E.2d 353. If that contract language is unambiguous, then construction of the agreement is a question of law for the c......
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