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Mech v. Pullman Standard

OPINION FILED FEBRUARY 10, 1984.

DENNIS F. MECH, PLAINTIFF,

v.

PULLMAN STANDARD ET AL., DEFENDANTS (PULLMAN STANDARD, THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

STEEL BUILDERS, INC., THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT-APPELLEE).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Brian B. Duff, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE WILSON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied November 1, 1985.

This action arises from the dismissal of a third party complaint filed by Pullman Standard (Pullman) against Steel Builders, Inc. (Steel Builders), for implied indemnity and contribution. Originally, Dennis Mech, an Indiana resident, filed a one-count complaint alleging negligence against Pullman, William J. Van Dyck Contractors and Builders, Inc., Industrial Commercial Engineers, Inc., and Wheelabrator-Frye, Inc., for injuries he sustained on August 26, 1979, at a construction site at the Pullman plant in Hammond, Indiana. Van Dyck, the general contractor, had engaged Steel Builders to perform part of the construction work. Mech was an employee of Steel Builders.

In its answer to Mech's complaint, Pullman denied all allegations of negligence and was subsequently granted leave to file a third-party complaint which consisted of two counts against Steel Builders for implied indemnity (count I) and contribution (count II). Following a hearing on June 2, 1982, the trial court granted Steel Builders' motion to dismiss, ruling that Indiana law controlled this matter. The court further ruled that under Indiana law, which with few exceptions does not permit contribution or indemnity between joint tortfeasors, Pullman's third-party complaint failed to state a cause of action. Pullman now appeals. We reverse the trial court's decision.

OPINION

The central issue raised by the pleadings in this matter concerns a conflict of laws question, namely whether Indiana or Illinois law governs the viability of Pullman's indemnity and contribution claims.

Initially, Pullman contends that because Illinois is the forum State its conflict of laws guidelines should determine the applicable law and that pursuant to these laws, the most significant relationship principles set forth in the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws, govern this action in tort. Applying this standard, Pullman reasons that although Indiana's contacts are significant, they have no relation to the issue of apportioning liability among third parties. Illinois, Pullman further contends, has considerable interest in apportioning risk of loss as evidenced by the legislature's enactment in 1979 of the Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 70, par. 301 et seq.) We find this argument unpersuasive for the following reasons.

We note at the outset that as the forum State, the choice-of-law rules of Illinois determine the procedural question of whether Illinois or Indiana law governs the substantive issues raised by Pullman's third-party complaint. (Velle Transcendental Research Association, Inc. v. Esquire, Inc. (1976), 41 Ill. App.3d 799, 803, 354 N.E.2d 622.) Illinois law must also be applied to decide the procedural question of whether the complaint should be dismissed. Badorski v. Commonwealth Edison Co. (1980), 89 Ill. App.3d 494, 496, 411 N.E.2d 924.

Turning now to the merits of this cause, Pullman correctly states that Illinois has adopted the most significant relationship approach formulated by the American Law Institute in the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws (Restatement) in resolving the liability issues raised in multistate tort actions. (Ingersoll v. Klein (1970), 46 Ill.2d 42, 262 N.E.2d 593.) We disagree with Pullman's reasoning, however, that application of the Restatement principles to the instant matter leads to the conclusion that Illinois law governs the indemnity and contribution issues presented in this action. As we will explain, the State of Indiana clearly has the most significant relationship with the occurrence in question and Indiana law controls both counts of Pullman's complaint.

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 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 contacts with the action: the decedent was an Illinois resident; the estate was pending in Illinois; the plaintiff was an Illinois resident; and the defendants were Illinois residents. Iowa's only connection to the action, the court observed, was that by happenstance it was the "alleged situs" of the decedent's death. Holding that Illinois law was applicable, the court articulated its approach to a choice-of-law question pertaining to personal injury action by stating that 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, Illinois law should apply. 46 Ill.2d 42, 45.

The Ingersoll holding is consistent with the choice-of-law principles formulated by the American Law Institute in the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws (1971). In tort actions, the Restatement 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 occurred; (c) the domicile, nationality, place of incorporation and place of business of the parties; and (d) the place where the relationship of the parties is centered. Ingersoll v. Klein (1970), 46 Ill.2d 42, 47; Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws sec. 145 (1971).

The Restatement further states that contacts in a multistate tort action are to be evaluated in light of the underlying policy factors important to the tort area, which include: the needs of the interstate system; the relevant policies of the forum; the relevant policies of any other State which may have a dominant interest in the determination of the particular issue and the ease in the determination and application of the law to be applied. Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws secs. 6, 145 (1971).

In the instant case, Pullman and Steel Builders agree that Indiana has the most significant contacts as far as determining the standard of conduct between them. Pullman contends further, however, that these contacts have little importance or relation to the question of apportioning liability among possible tortfeasors in this cause since Illinois is the forum State, the general contractor's (Van Dyck) place of business is located in Illinois, Pullman and Steel Builders do business in Illinois and because Illinois policy strongly favors apportioning liability among third parties. We cannot agree with this conclusion.

• 1 Our analysis of the record in the case at bar convinces us that as between the two jurisdictions involved, Indiana has the most significant relationship to the injury which resulted in the original cause of action before the trial court and that under the Ingersoll rationale, which adheres to the Restatement (Second) view, Indiana law controls the ...


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