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Silva v. Rochester Bituminous Products

Superior Court of Massachusetts, Plymouth

June 11, 2018

Timothy SILVA & another[1]
v.
ROCHESTER BITUMINOUS PRODUCTS; Clover Paving Company, Inc., third-party defendant

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER ON THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          MICHAEL D. RICCIUTI, Justice of the Superior Court

          This matter involves an October 3, 2014 worksite accident in which the plaintiff, Timothy Silva ("Silva"), an employee of Clover Paving Company, Inc. ("Clover"), was injured during a parking lot paving project ("the Project"). Rochester Bituminous Products, Inc. ("Rochester") was hired to perform paving at the Project and retained Clover in connection with it. Silva filed a Complaint alleging negligence against Rochester. Rochester then filed a Third-Party Complaint, naming Clover as a third-party defendant.

         The matter is before the Court on Clover’s Motion for Summary Judgment as to Rochester’s Third-Party Complaint. Rochester opposes. For the reasons which follow, Clover’s Motion for Summary Judgment is ALLOWED.

         BACKGROUND

         The following relevant facts are either undisputed or presented in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, in accordance with the dictates of Mass. R. Civ. P. 56.

         Both Rochester and Clover are Massachusetts corporations. Rochester’s business included the manufacture and sale of asphalt to paving contractors and the installation of asphalt for construction projects.

         Rochester was hired to perform paving work on a project located in Cranston, Rhode Island ("the Project"). As a business model, Rochester attempted to secure multiple paving contracts, then contracted out the installation work to paving subcontractors if it lacked adequate staffing to perform the work itself. Rochester generally retained subcontractors that routinely purchased asphalt from Rochester and maintained an outstanding balance on account. In engaging these subcontract agreements, Rochester either met with the subcontractor’s principal at Rochester’s Massachusetts offices or the parties discussed the subcontract by telephone. Clover served as a subcontractor for Rochester in this manner on at least three different jobs. Rochester also entered into an unwritten agreement with Clover through which Clover performed paving work at the Project.

         Rochester claims that it "required that each subcontractor would take all steps to protect Rochester from being sued as the result of the subcontractor’s work." Clover disputes this. Clover also disputes Rochester’s claim that it would never direct Clover’s employees regarding how to perform work on the jobsite.

         At all relevant times, Silva was an employee of Rochester. During the course of his work on the Project, Silva was injured when he was struck by a compaction vehicle operated by another Clover employee. As a result of his injuries, Silva received worker’s compensation benefits from Clover’s insurer under Massachusetts worker’s compensation law.

         DISCUSSION

         Clover’s Motion for Summary Judgment initially argued that Rhode Island law should apply to this case. Rochester’s Opposition argued that Massachusetts law controlled. In its reply brief, Clover concedes (at least for purposes of this motion) that Massachusetts law applies to the analysis of this case.[2]

          Summary judgment is appropriate when the record shows that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Mass. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also DuPont v. Commissioner of Corr., 448 Mass. 389, 397 (2007). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that there is no triable issue and he or she is entitled to judgment. Ng Bros. Constr., Inc. v. Cranney, 436 Mass. 638, 644 (2002), citing Pederson v. Time, Inc., 404 Mass. 14, 17 (1989); Kourouvacilis v. Gen. Motors Corp., 410 Mass. 706, 716 (1991). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in its favor. Jupin v. Kask, 447 Mass. 141, 143 (2006), citing Coveney v. President & Trs. of the Coll. of the Holy Cross, 388 Mass. 16 (1983); see also Simplex Techs., Inc. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 429 Mass. 196, 197 (1999).

         A. Contribution

         Contribution may be recoverable where two or more parties become jointly liable for the same injury to person or property, and only one of the liable parties is sued. G. L. c. 231B, § 1; O’Mara v. H.P. Hood & Sons, Inc.,359 Mass. 235, 237-238 (1971). However, there is no right to contribution from a party who is not "liable in tort" due to a special status or personal defense, even if that party was at fault. Berube v. City of Northampton,413 Mass. 635, 638-639 (1992). As one such defense, there is no right to contribution against an employer whose negligence contributed to an employee’s injury but who is discharged from liability to the employee per the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act ("WCA"). Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Westerlind,374 Mass. 524, 525-526 (1978). Per the WCA’s exclusivity provision, G. L. c. 152, § 23, an employer is released from all tort liability to an employee ...


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