Thursday, March 19, 2009

Prince v. Pacific Gas, S149344

Indemnity, equitable indemnity, third party. The principal question for us is whether or not a requirement of a joint legal obligation also applies when implied contractual indemnity is at issue.  We conclude the answer is yes (p. 10). A shipowner contracted with a stevedoring company for performance of stevedoring operations, but the company’s failure to perform the work safely contributed to the injury of one of its own employees.  The United States Supreme Court held that, under these circumstances, the shipowner had an action for breach of contract to recover indemnity from the stevedoring company for the compensation the shipowner paid to the company’s injured employee (p. 12). Contract language must be “particularly clear and explicit” to afford protection beyond that available under doctrines of implied or equitable indemnity, e.g., indemnification regardless of the indemnitor’s fault (p. 15). We recognized that an implied contractual indemnity claim, like a traditional equitable indemnity claim, is subject to the American Motorcycle rule that a party’s liability for equitable indemnity is based on its proportional share of responsibility for the damages to the injured party (p. 16). That implied contractual indemnity has always been subject to the rule that “ ‘there can be no indemnity without liability.’ Application of this rule here compels the conclusion that PG&E’s immunity from liability to Jackson under section 846 bars Prince from recovering on an implied contractual indemnity theory (p. 17) (Cal. S. Ct., 19.03.09, Prince v. Pacific Gas, S149344).

En droit californien, les dommages-intérêts contractuels implicites peuvent être alloués mais ils doivent être proportionnels à la faute commise. Une responsabilité sans faute peut également être admise de manière générale mais les termes du contrat doivent la prévoir et être particulièrement clairs et explicites à ce sujet.

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