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La Sanska v. University of Chicago

SEPTEMBER 18, 1970.

EDWIN W. LA SANSKA, PLAINTIFF,

v.

THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, A NOT-FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION, JOSEPH J. DUFFY CO., AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, MCDONIEL IRON WORKS, INC., AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, ROETH & CUTLER, INC., AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, AND ABELL-HOWE COMPANY, AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS. JOSEPH J. DUFFY CO., AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

GERSON ELECTRIC CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, County Department, Law Division; the Hon. HERBERT C. PASCHEN, Judge, presiding. Reversed and remanded.

TRAPP, J.

The trial court entered summary judgment for defendant on two counts of a complaint seeking recovery of indemnity by reason of a contract. Plaintiff appeals.

Duffy Construction Co., third-party plaintiff, herein called Duffy, was the general contractor for construction work at the Argonne National Laboratory. Essentially, the United States was the builder. Duffy's contractual obligations included indemnification of the United States for all injuries and demands arising out of the performance of such contract, including performance by Duffy's subcontractors.

The third-party defendant, Gerson Electric Construction Company, herein called Gerson, was the electrical subcontractor. Article II of the subcontract stated that Gerson certified that he examined all plans and specifications of the entire contract and, amongst other things agreed that as to any federal project, Gerson bound himself to Duffy and to such government agency to fully comply with:

". . . all the undertakings and obligations of the Contractor, insofar as they shall apply to the Subcontractor's work, as set forth in the principal contract between the Contractor and such government or agency. . . ."

The subcontract also provided that Gerson indemnify Duffy in the following language:

"Art. VIII. The Subcontractor hereby agrees to indemnify and keep harmless the Contractor against all liability, claims, judgments or demands for damages arising from accidents to persons or property occasioned by the Subcontractor, his agents or employes, and against all claims or demands for damages arising from accidents to the Subcontractor, his agents or employes, whether occasioned by said Subcontractor or his employes or by the Contractor or his employes, or any other person or persons; and the said Subcontractor will defend any and all suits that may be brought against the Contractor on account of any such accidents and will reimburse the Contractor for any expenditures that said Contractor may make by reason of such accidents." (Emphasis supplied.)

One La Sanska, an employe of defendant, Gerson, was injured on the construction job and brought this action against Duffy and others alleging a cause of action under the provisions of the Structural Work Act, chapter 48, § 60 et seq., Ill Rev Stats 1959. Duffy thereupon brought a third-party action against Gerson seeking indemnification by reasons of the indemnity provisions of the subcontract just noted. At this point such La Sanska complaint and Counts I and II of the third-party complaint depart our ken and are not of concern.

Count III of Duffy's complaint alleged that La Sanska had commenced an action for the injuries against the United States, No. 62 C 1094, in the United States District Court, and that Gerson refused to honor demands to defend such action against the United States. It further appears that the United States made demand upon Duffy to defend the La Sanska action and brought a third-party action against Duffy for the contractual indemnity. La Sanska's action was dismissed without prejudice on his own motion. Count III prayed damages for attorney's fees, costs, and expenses necessarily incurred expended in the defense of such action against the United States.

Count IV alleges that La Sanska thereafter brought an action for such injuries against the United States, No. 63 C 1456, in the Federal District Court. It appears that the United States thereupon filed a third-party action against the defendant, Gerson, by reason of his indemnity contract. It was held that such complaint stated a cause of action for indemnity. La Sanska v. United States v. Gerson Elec. Const. Co., 346 F.2d 333 (1965). It appears that this cause of action was dismissed with prejudice by agreement of the parties. Count IV alleges that Gerson refused to meet its contractual obligations to defend such action and that Duffy was obligated and did incur attorney's fees, costs and other expenses. The count prays judgment for such of the expenses as were reasonably necessary in such behalf.

Gerson's answer asserted as an affirmative defense that the judgment of dismissal with prejudice entered in Federal District Court, cause No. 63 C 1456, here barred Duffy's action on both counts under the doctrine of res judicata. The motion for summary judgment asserts that there is no genuine issue of fact to be determined for the reason that the judgment of the Federal District Court in cause No. 63 C 1456 is res judicata of all claims by Duffy. In support of such motion there is an affidavit by an attorney associated in Gerson's defense which refers to the indemnity action of the United States against defendant, Gerson, upon his contractual liability to indemnify, which among other things states:

". . . that he is informed and believes and, therefore, charges the fact to be that the Third Party Plaintiff herein, Duffy Construction Company, was the real party in interest as Third Party Plaintiff in the Third-Party Complaint filed by the United States against Gerson in Case No. 63 C 1456 in the United States District Court."

Such affidavit features utter failure to comply with the contents of an affidavit in support of summary judgment. Chapter 110, § 57(4), Ill Rev Stats 1967, provides that the content of such affidavit shall be according to rule. Supreme Court Rule 191(a), Ill Rev Stats 1967, provides that an affidavit in support of summary judgment shall be upon personal knowledge of the affiant, shall state facts admissible in evidence which are relevant to the issue and without conclusions of the affiant. Moreover, such affiant must set out affirmatively that if affiant be sworn as a witness, he is competent to testify as a witness to such facts. An affidavit stating conclusions reached from asserted information and belief is both valueless and meaningless in support of a motion for summary judgment.

Upon the motion for summary judgment there was certain testimony by a former member of the law firm representing the plaintiff, Duffy, as a third-party defendant in the first case No. 62 C 1094, in the Federal District Court. He testified that in the subsequent case, No. 63 C 1456 in the Federal District Court, by La Sanska against the United States, he expressed a requested opinion that on such action the plaintiff, Duffy, would be liable to the United States under the indemnity provisions of its contract. He was, thereafter, designated a co-counsel by the United States Attorney and was instructed in behalf of Duffy and its insurance company to participate as co-counsel, and that he did join actively in the proceedings including the trial of the La Sanska case. He stated that he was present when the case was dismissed with prejudice. He further testified that in such proceedings the United States had a claim adverse to that of the plaintiff, Duffy; that he was ...


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