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Brown v. Target Corporation

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

October 22, 2013

ANGELA BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
TARGET CORPORATION, Defendant. TARGET CORPORATION, Third-party plaintiff,
v.
HARBOR INDUSTRIES, INC., and LANKFORD CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, Third-party defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

GEORGE M. MAROVICH, District Judge.

After she was allegedly hit on the head by a dressing-room door that had fallen off its hinges, plaintiff Angela Brown ("Brown") filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County her negligence suit against defendant Target Corporation ("Target"). Target removed the case to this Court and filed a third-party complaint against third-party defendants Harbor Industries, Inc. ("Harbor") and Lankford Construction Company ("Lankford"). Target has filed a motion for partial summary judgment with respect to Count II of its third-party complaint against Harbor. In that count, Target alleges that Harbor has a duty to defend and indemnify it with respect to Brown's claims against it. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Target's motion.

I. Background

Local Rule 56.1 outlines the requirements for the introduction of facts parties would like considered in connection with a motion for summary judgment. The Court enforces Local Rule 56.1 strictly. Facts that are argued but do not conform with the rule are not considered by the Court. For example, facts included in a party's brief but not in its statement of facts are not considered by the Court because to do so would rob the other party of the opportunity to show that such facts are disputed. Where one party supports a fact with admissible evidence and the other party fails to controvert the fact with citation to admissible evidence, the Court deems the fact admitted. See Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Services, Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817-818 (7th Cir. 2004). This does not, however, absolve the party putting forth the fact of its duty to support the fact with admissible evidence. See Keeton v. Morningstar, Inc., 667 F.3d 877, 880 (7th Cir. 2012). Asserted "facts" not supported by deposition testimony, documents, affidavits or other evidence admissible for summary judgment purposes are not considered by the Court.

The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

On December 17, 2011, plaintiff Angela Brown was hit on the head by a fitting-room door when she attempted to exit a fitting room in the Target store located at 6601 Grand Avenue in Gurnee, Illinois (the "Gurnee store").

Before that date, Target had contracted with Harbor to design and provide materials for the construction of fittings rooms at the Gurnee store. The contract was called the "Program Agreement for Fitting Rooms" and incorporated by reference a prior agreement called the "Supplier Qualification Agreement." The Supplier Qualification Agreement, in turn, stated, among other things:

Supplier shall indemnify, defend and hold harmless Target, its affiliates, and their respective directors, officers, shareholders, employees, contractors, and agents ("the Target Parties"), from and against any liabilities, losses, claims, suits damages, costs and expenses (including without limitation reasonable attorneys' fees and expenses) (each a "Claim") arising out of or otherwise relating to the subject matter of this Agreement, Supplier's performance or failure to perform as required by this Agreement, Supplier's acts or omissions, or Supplier's failure to comply with any of the Supplier's representations or warranties contained in this Agreement. Any attorney selected by Supplier to defend Target Parties must be reasonably satisfactory to Target. Supplier may not settle a Claim (in whole or in part) without Target's prior written consent.

(Supplier Qualification Agreement at 4) (emphasis added). Harbor is the "Supplier" in the contract. The contract also states, "The laws of the State of Minnesota, without regard to Minnesota's choice of law principles, govern all matters arising out of or related to this Agreement." (Supplier Qualification Agreement at 6).

II. Standard on a motion for summary judgment

Summary judgment shall be granted when "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). When making such a determination, the Court must construe the evidence and make all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate, however, when the non-moving party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to the party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "A genuine issue of material fact arises only if sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party exists to permit a jury to return a verdict for that party." Brummett v. Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., 414 F.3d 686, 692 (7th Cir. 2005).

III. Discussion

In Count II of its third-party complaint, Target alleges that Harbor must defend and indemnify it with respect plaintiff Brown's claim that Target was negligent. In moving for summary judgment with respect to Count II, Target argues that the language of the indemnification clause is broad enough to cover Target's own negligence. Harbor disagrees. Harbor argues that the indemnification clause is not sufficient, under Minnesota law, to cover Target's own negligence. Alternatively, Harbor argues that the contract is a construction contract, subject to the Minnesota and/or Illinois statutes that barring from construction contracts clauses in which a party is indemnified for its own negligence.

This federal court, which is sitting in diversity, applies the choice-of-law rules of Illinois-its forum state. Hinc v. Lime-O-Sol Co., 382 F.3d 716, 719 (7th Cir. 2004). Illinois law respects a choice-of-law provision in a contract, so long as the chosen law is not "contrary to Illinois's fundamental public policy.'" Tradesmen Int'l, Inc. v. Black, 724 F.3d 1004, 1012 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Thomas v. Guardsmark, Inc., 381 F.3d 701, 705 (7th Cir. 2004)). The contract at issue in this case contains a ...


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