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Jackson v. Miller-davis Co.

OPINION FILED NOVEMBER 30, 1976.

C.A. JACKSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

MILLER-DAVIS COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE AND THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT. — (CECO CORPORATION, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.)



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ABRAHAM W. BRUSSEL, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE BURKE DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

On March 23, 1970, C.A. Jackson allegedly fell from a scaffold erected at a construction site on the premises of Purdue University located in Hammond, Indiana. On January 11, 1974, C.A. Jackson filed an amended complaint in two counts against the general contractor, Miller-Davis Company (hereinafter "Miller-Davis"). Count I of the amended complaint alleged that Miller-Davis was guilty of several negligent acts and omissions. Plaintiff claimed in count I that Miller-Davis violated certain provisions of the Indiana Dangerous Occupations Act relative to the requirements for safety scaffolding. (Ind. Ann. Stat. § 20-301 et seq. (Burns 1964).) Count II of the amended complaint alleged that Miller-Davis wilfully failed to safely place or operate a temporary scaffold in violation of section 1 of the Illinois Structural Work Act. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 48, par. 60.) Plaintiff brought count II under section 9 of the Illinois Structural Work Act which provides a right of action to any party injured as a result of wilful noncompliance with the provisions of the Act. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 48, par. 69.

On January 21, 1974, Miller-Davis moved to dismiss count I of plaintiff's amended complaint on the ground that the substantive law of Illinois, rather than the law of Indiana, is applicable. Miller-Davis also moved that count II should be dismissed on the ground that the Illinois Structural Work Act does not apply to work performed outside the territorial boundaries of Illinois.

Miller-Davis filed a third-party complaint in two counts against plaintiff's employer, Ceco Corporation (hereinafter "Ceco"). Ceco entered into a subcontract with Miller-Davis to furnish and install steel pan concrete forms and centering for the construction project. Count I of the third-party complaint claimed contractual indemnity on the ground the Ceco agreed to hold Miller-Davis harmless for the personal injuries suffered by plaintiff. Count II of the third-party complaint claimed indemnity on the basis that Miller-Davis was passively negligent while Ceco was actively negligent.

Ceco moved to dismiss count II of Miller-Davis' third-party complaint on the ground that the substantive law of Indiana, rather than the law of Illinois, is applicable. It is undisputed that Indiana law does not allow an action for implied indemnity based upon the distinction between "active" and "passive" conduct.

After considering extensive oral and written arguments of counsel, the trial court entered an order on November 14, 1974, finding that the law of Indiana controlled the disposition of the issues. The trial court struck count II of plaintiff's amended complaint on the ground that the Illinois Structural Work Act has no extraterritorial effect. Count I of plaintiff's amended complaint, which is based on Indiana substantive law, was allowed to continue. The trial court also struck count II of Miller-Davis' third-party complaint on the ground that Indiana law did not recognize an action based on the distinction between active and passive negligence. However, count I of Miller-Davis' third-party complaint, which alleged contractual indemnity, was allowed to continue.

Both plaintiff, C.A. Jackson, and defendant, Miller-Davis, appeal portions of the trial court's order. Plaintiff contends that count II of his amended complaint should be reinstated because the civil remedy provision of the Illinois Structural Work Act provides him a cause of action. Defendant contends: (1) the trial court erred in refusing to dismiss count I of plaintiff's amended complaint, and (2) the trial court erred in striking count II of the third-party complaint. Defendant argues that the substantive law of Illinois, rather than the law of Indiana, determines the rights and liabilities of the parties. In response to plaintiff's appeal, however, defendant contends that the Illinois Structural Work Act does not have extraterritorial effect. Third-party defendant Ceco maintains that the law of Indiana is applicable and that the trial court's order should be affirmed in its entirety.

Miller-Davis is incorporated under the laws of Michigan; it also conducts business in Illinois and Indiana. Miller-Davis acted as the general contractor in charge of the construction of a library building located at Purdue University in Hammond, Indiana. The record indicates that contract terms contained in a purchase order tendered by Miller-Davis were conditionally accepted by Ceco at its office in Cicero, Illinois. Sixteen additional terms to the contract, proposed by Ceco, were accepted by Miller-Davis at its office in Michigan City, Indiana. The place of contract performance was Indiana. The terms of the contract between Miller-Davis and Ceco provide that Ceco "observe all safety regulation of the State, the Owner, and the Miller-Davis Company;" that Ceco "comply with the provisions of local, state, and federal laws and all other laws and regulations of any agency or governmental unit;" and that Ceco would hold Miller-Davis harmless from loss in connection with injury due to any negligence on the part of Ceco.

In 1970, the Indiana Dangerous Occupations Act was in effect. The Indiana statute provided certain requirements for flooring, staging, and scaffolding at various heights under various conditions. In 1971, Indiana abolished its Dangerous Occupations Act and enabled administrative machinery to adopt and enforce current Federal occupational safety and health standards. The safety requirements relative to scaffolding embodied in the former Indiana Dangerous Occupations Act are similar in nature to the safety requirements in the Illinois Structural Work Act. However, the specific standards which regulate all the aspects of scaffold construction differ substantially in each State statute.

The plaintiff, C.A. Jackson, is a resident of Illinois. On March 23, 1970, plaintiff was a labor foreman in the employ of Ceco at the Hammond, Indiana construction site. The record includes an affidavit wherein the plaintiff stated that approximately 80% to 90% of his employment time with Ceco has been spent in Illinois since 1963. The record indicates that co-workers of plaintiff were Indiana residents.

We are asked to decide two questions: (1) whether the law of Illinois or the law of Indiana governs the rights and liabilities of the parties, and (2) whether the plaintiff can maintain an action under the civil remedy provision of the Illinois Structural Work Act.

In Ingersoll v. Klein, 46 Ill.2d 42, 262 N.E.2d 593, our supreme court adopted the "most significant contact" approach to choice-of-law questions in tort. In Ingersoll, the decedent drowned in an automobile accident when his car broke through ice on the Mississippi River allegedly within the territorial jurisdiction of the State of Iowa. The decedent's administratrix filed a complaint based on Iowa law. In determining which State law was applicable, the court found that Illinois had the most significant contact with the action. The decedent in Ingersoll was an Illinois resident; the estate was pending in Illinois; the plaintiff was an Illinois resident; and the defendants were Illinois residents. Since Iowa's only connection to the action was that by happenstance it was the "alleged situs" of the decedent's death, the court held that Illinois law was applicable. The court articulated its approach to a choice-of-law question pertaining to personal injury actions by stating:

"In our opinion, the local law of the State where the injury occurred should determine the rights and liabilities of the parties, unless Illinois has a more significant relationship with the occurrence and with the parties, in which case, the law of Illinois should apply." Ingersoll v. Klein, 46 Ill.2d 42, 45, 262 N.E.2d 593, 595.

The Ingersoll holding is consistent with the choice-of-law principles formulated by the American Law Institute in Restatement (Second) of Conflicts of Law (1971). In tort actions, the Restatement (Second) provides that certain contacts are to be evaluated according to their relative importance to the particular issue presented by the action. The contacts to consider include: "(a) the place where the injury occurred, (b) the place where the conduct causing the injury occurred, (c) the domicil, residence, nationality, place of incorporation and place of business of the parties, and (d) the place where the relationship, if any, between the parties is centered." (Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 145 (1971).) Further, the Restatement (Second) provides that contacts in a multistate tort action are to be evaluated in light of underlying policy factors important to the tort area, which include: needs of the interstate system, the relevant policies of the forum, the relevant policies of ...


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