United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
DOMINIC J. SQUATRITO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff, USM, Inc. (“USM”), brings claims of
common law indemnification, contractual indemnification, and
breach of contract against the defendants, Barretta
Enterprises, LLC (“Barretta”) and Peerless
Indemnity Insurance Company (“Peerless”). Both
defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment. For the
reasons stated below, the defendant Barretta's motion
(doc. # 37) is granted in part and denied in part, and
Peerless's motion (doc. # 20) is granted.
prior, separate action, the plaintiff, Linda Hawkins brought
suit against Target Corporation (“Target”),
alleging that injuries she suffered as the result of a slip
and fall on a walkway at a Target store in Orange,
Connecticut were “caused by Target's negligence . .
. . At the time of the accident, Target had contracted with
[USM] to provide snow and ice removal services at the store.
USM, in turn, asked its subcontractor Barretta to provide
such services there.” Hawkins v. Target Corp.,
Civil No. 12cv319 (AWT), 2015 WL 533260, at *1 (D. Conn. Feb.
10, 2015) (“Hawkins”). Target
subsequently joined Barretta as a third-party defendant in
Hawkins, raising claims of contractual
indemnification and common law indemnification. A motion for
summary judgment filed by Barretta was granted as to the
contractual indemnification claim and denied as to the common
law indemnification claim. The plaintiff Linda Hawkins
subsequently entered into a settlement agreement with Target,
which then voluntarily dismissed its claim against Barretta.
instant action, USM brings a common law indemnification claim
against Barretta for the costs to defend and indemnify Target
in Hawkins, as well as breach of contract claims.
USM has also brought a claim against Peerless, which had
issued a commercial general liability insurance policy to
Barretta, alleging that in the Hawkins action,
Peerless breached a duty to defend and indemnify USM and/or
Target as additional insureds under the policy issued to
Barretta. The caption of the Complaint lists USM as the
plaintiff “individually and for the benefit of Target
Corporation/Target Stores, Inc.” (Doc. # 1, at 9). The
Complaint further represents that, since USM agreed to defend
and indemnify Target in Hawkins, it “has
stepped into the shoes of Target” for purposes of this
action. (Id. at 12, ¶ 10).
defendants' motions for summary judgment are based
entirely on their argument that the present claims are barred
by virtue of the previous decision of the court in
Hawkins granting partial summary judgment to
Barretta. More specifically, the defendants contend that one
or both of the doctrines of collateral estoppel and res
judicata preclude USM from pursuing these claims.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
motion for summary judgment may be granted “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). A “material
fact” is one whose resolution will affect the ultimate
determination of the case. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute concerning a
material fact is genuine “if evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Id. The Court “accept[s] as true
facts that [are] undisputed by the parties, and resolve[s]
disputed facts in favor of the non-moving plaintiff where
there [is] evidence to support [its] allegations.”
Sousa v. Roque, 578 F.3d 164, 166 n.1. “Only
when reasonable minds could not differ as to the import of
the evidence is summary judgment proper.” Bryant v.
Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir. 1991).
judgment is appropriate if, after discovery, the nonmoving
party “failed to make a sufficient showing on an
essential element of her case with respect to which she has
the burden of proof.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). “The burden is
on the moving party to demonstrate the absence of any
material factual issue genuinely in dispute.”
American International Group, Inc. v. London American
International Corp., 664 F.2d 348, 351 (2d Cir. 1981)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
previously noted, the defendants' summary judgment
motions are based entirely on their argument that the present
claims are barred by virtue of the decision in
Hawkins. The Court will now consider how that
argument applies to each of the four counts in USM's
Count One: Common Law Indemnification (Barretta)
Count One of its Complaint, USM alleges that: (1) “At
all times relevant hereto, Barretta was in control of snow
and ice removal of the parking lot at Target, at the
Premises, to the exclusion of USM”; (2) “USM had
no reason to know that Barretta would be negligent in the
snow and ice removal in the parking lot at Target resulting
in injury”; and (3) “Accordingly, Barretta is
obligated to USM for the costs to defend and indemnify Target
and the settlement in the Federal Action
[Hawkins].” (Doc. # 1, at 13, ¶¶ 16,
third-party complaint against Barretta in Hawkins
included a common law indemnification claim. Barretta's
motion for summary judgment in that case was denied as to the
common law indemnification claim:
[A] reasonable jury could conclude that despite the poorly
designed drain pipe the dangerous condition that caused the
slip and fall was the ice on the walkway, and that Barretta
had exclusive control over that walkway. Genuine issues of
material fact exist as to what is the dangerous condition and
whether Barretta had exclusive control over that condition.
Therefore, summary judgment is being denied with respect to
the common law indemnification claim.
Hawkins, 2015 WL 533260, at *5.
legal argument in support of its motion for summary judgment
begins with the following statement: “The doctrines of
res judicata and collateral estoppel are both related to the
general principle that once a question has been finally and
authoritatively decided it should not be relitigated.”
(Doc. # 37-1, at 7) (internal quotation marks omitted). With
regard to the common law indemnification claim, however, the
court in Hawkins did not finally and authoritatively
decide the question. To the contrary, the court explicitly
stated that genuine issues of material fact exist as to that
question. Neither res judicata nor collateral estoppel - -
which are the exclusive ...