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Harbison v. Rich Gullet and Sons, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 13, 2015

RICH GULLET AND SONS, INC., et al, Defendants.



Plaintiff Fred Harbison ("Plaintiff") and third-party defendants McCann Concrete Products, Inc. ("McCann"), McDonough-Whitlow, P.C. ("McDonough"), and Union Electric Company, d/b/a Ameren UE, d/b/a Ameren Missouri ("Ameren") (collectively, the "Moving Parties") have filed a Joint Motion to Dismiss in which they ask the Court to dismiss several pending claims pursuant to the terms of a Settlement Agreement. (Doc. 160). The remaining parties in the action filed a response stating that they do not object to the motion. (Doc. 168). For the following reasons, the motion will be granted.


On October 20, 2011, Plaintiff was delivering a heavy piece of concrete vault to a substation owned by Ameren in St. Louis County, Missouri, when the concrete vault section fell on his truck and injured him during the unloading process. Plaintiff has asserted negligence claims against Rich Gullet and Sons, Inc. ("Gullet"), the sub-contractor responsible for unloading the vault, and McGrath & Associates, Inc. ("McGrath"), the general contractor for the Ameren site. Plaintiff also filed a workers' compensation claim against his employer, McCann. The two defendants in this action, Gullet and McGrath, have since become enmeshed in a procedural web of cross-claims and counterclaims with third-party defendants Ameren, McDonough (the company that provided engineering services with regard to the concrete vault at issue), and McCann, each seeking contribution and indemnification should Plaintiff ultimately prevail.

On April 22, 2015, Plaintiff, Plaintiff's wife, McCann, and McDonough (the "Settling Parties") reached a settlement (the "Settlement Agreement") under which Plaintiff agreed to discharge McCann and McDonough from liability for his injuries in exchange for $40, 000 and $10, 000, respectively.[1] (Doc. 160 ¶¶ 11-12). McCann and McDonough also agreed to dismiss their claims against each other. ( Id. ¶ 12). The Settling Parties notified Gullet, McGrath and Ameren of the Settlement Agreement and provided them each with a copy on April 24, 2015. ( Id. ¶ 13). Ameren responded that it had no objection and joined the instant motion. ( Id. ¶ 15). Gullet and McGrath (collectively, the "Non-Settling Parties"), however, responded on May 18 that they would neither consent nor object to the Settlement Agreement. ( Id. ¶ 16).

On May 22, 2015, the Moving Parties filed the instant motion, asking the Court to (1) dismiss with prejudice all pending claims for contribution against McCann and McDonough, (2) dismiss with prejudice McDonough's contractual indemnity claim against McCann, and (3) dismiss without prejudice McDonough's contribution claim against Ameren. On June 19, 2015, the Non-Settling Parties responded with a statement that they would not object to the instant motion. (Doc. 168).


The Court will address separately (A) the Moving Parties' requests to dismiss the pending contribution claims against McCann and McDonough and (B) the Moving Parties' requests to dismiss McDonough's claims against McCann and Ameren.

A. Contribution Claims Against McCann and McDonough

The Moving Parties first ask that McCann and McDonough be discharged from all contribution liability based on the terms of the Settlement Agreement.[2] This would mean dismissing Gullet's crossclaims against McCann and McDonough (Docs. 114 and 115), as well as McGrath's crossclaim against McCann (Doc. 118) and counterclaim against McDonough (Doc. 119). Neither Gullet nor McGrath objects. Although the Moving Parties have termed the instant motion a "Joint Motion to Dismiss, " I find that the motion is properly construed as one for summary judgment. See Tiny Tot Land v. Spalding & Evenflo Cos. Inc., 242 F.3d 830 (8th Cir. 2001). Summary judgment is proper "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Hill v. Walker, 737 F.3d 1209, 1216 (8th Cir. 2013).

To resolve this motion, the Court must determine whether the Settlement Agreement erases McCann's and McDonough's contribution liability for matters pertaining to this suit. There is some question about whether Illinois law or Missouri law governs this issue. However, the Court need not decide that question, because the Settlement Agreement extinguishes McCann's and McDonough's contribution liability under either state's law.

1. Illinois Law

The Illinois Contribution Act provides, in relevant part:

(c) When a release or covenant not to sue or not to enforce judgment is given in good faith to one or more persons liable in tort arising out of the same injury or the same wrongful death, it does not discharge any of the other tortfeasors from liability for the injury or wrongful death unless its terms so provide but it reduces the recovery on any claim against the others to the extent of any amount stated in the ...

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