HOUDAILLE INDUSTRIES, INC. v. EDWARDS No. 54949.
374 So.2d 490 (1979)
HOUDAILLE INDUSTRIES, INC., Petitioner, v. Eddie EDWARDS, Sr., Etc., et al., Respondents.
Supreme Court of Florida.
Rehearing Denied September 28, 1979.
Marion R. Shepard of Mathews, Osborne, Ehrlich, McNatt, Gobelman & Cobb, Jacksonville, for petitioner.
S. William Fuller, Jr. of Fuller & Johnson, Tallahassee, for respondents.
We have for review the decision of the District Court of Appeal, First District, in Home Indemnity Co. v. Edwards,
The issue before us is whether a manufacturer of a defective product that contributes to an on-the-job injury of a workman may seek common law indemnity from the employer of the injured workman.
Houdaille Industries, the employer, manufactures reinforced concrete beams using steel wire cable which is made by Florida Wire and Cable Co. During the process of manufacturing the concrete beams, the steel cable is stretched through a mold into which the concrete is poured. Eddie Edwards, an employee of Houdaille, was killed when the cable broke while it was under stress. Houdaille paid Edwards' survivors the workmen's compensation benefits required by law. Edwards' personal representative then sued Florida Wire for his wrongful death and alleged that Florida Wire had breached its implied warranty of fitness and that this breach was the direct and proximate cause of Edwards' death.
Florida Wire filed a third-party complaint for indemnification against Houdaille and alleged that, at the time of the accident, Houdaille was actively negligent because it failed to properly conduct the detensioning process which was used to remove one of the strands from the pouring bed, because it failed to properly insert the strand back in the jack used in the detensioning process and improperly installed the jack to the strand of wire which resulted in misalignment of the jack and subsequent release of the strand, and because it failed to properly instruct its employees as to the detensioning process. Florida Wire alleged that if it was negligent, its negligence was merely passive. It did not, however, plead that its liability, if any, would be solely vicarious, constructive, derivative, or technical and would be based on the wrongdoing of Houdaille. Florida Wire further sought indemnity on the basis of a breach of an alleged independent duty owed to it by Houdaille.
Houdaille's motion for summary judgment on the third-party complaint was granted by the trial court for the reason that if Florida Wire was liable at all to the plaintiff, Edwards, its liability flows from a breach of warranty or some other wrongdoing on its part which could only be characterized as active negligence.
On appeal, the district court reversed, holding that a manufacturer of a product, who is sued for breach of warranty by one injured by the product, may bring a third-party complaint for indemnity against the employer of the injured party. The district court, focusing on the wrongdoing of the employer rather than the fault of the manufacturer, determined that material issues of fact precluding summary judgment exist as to whether the employer was guilty of negligence in the form of misuse of the product manufactured by Florida Wire. It effectually used the traditional common law indemnity classifications of active and passive negligence as a vehicle for weighing the fault of the employer as against the fault of the manufacturer.
Indemnity is a right which inures to one who discharges a duty owed by him, but which, as between himself and another, should have been discharged by the other
Although courts of this state have consistently premised the allowance of indemnity upon a special relationship between the primary defendant and the third-party defendant, confusion seems to have arisen over the use of the labels employed to designate the conduct of the parties which will permit the party seeking indemnity to recover. The active-passive terminology has been criticized as possibly denoting degrees of fault, and it has been suggested that the terms primary and secondary are more accurate and technically correct. See Maybarduk v. Bustamante,
Florida Wire asserts that the only way to classify a tortfeasor's negligence as active or passive is to weigh the relative fault of the tortfeasor. To agree with Florida Wire's reasoning, however, would be to repudiate our recent holdings in Stuart v. Hertz Corporation and Seaboard Coast Line Railroad Co. v. Smith which hold that, when determining whether a party is entitled to indemnity, we will not weigh the relative fault of the parties, but rather we will look to the party seeking indemnity to determine whether he is without fault. In making this particular determination, it is immaterial whether the one against whom indemnification is sought is also with fault.
These traditional principles of indemnity preclude Florida Wire from recovering against Houdaille. Florida Wire's claim that Houdaille's negligence solely and proximately caused the injury to the deceased employee does not establish a claim for indemnity since, if this is the case, a judgment cannot properly be awarded against Florida Wire in favor of the plaintiff since Florida Wire cannot be held vicariously or constructively liable for Houdaille's acts. A manufacturer, although liable for injuries caused by a defect in its product, is not an insurer for all physical injuries caused by its product. West v. Caterpillar Tractor Co., Inc.,
Accordingly, we hold that summary judgment was properly entered in favor of Houdaille, and the district court erred in reversing. The decision of the district court is quashed, and this cause is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
ENGLAND, C.J., and ADKINS, BOYD, OVERTON, SUNDBERG and HATCHETT, JJ., concur.
- No Cases Found