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MYR Equipment, LLC v. Plant Site Logistics, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

August 28, 2019



          James Patrick Hanlon United States District Judge

         MYR entered into a contract with Plant Site for Plant Site to provide it with transportation logistics solutions. With Plant Site's assistance, MYR entered into a contract with AM Trans for freight-broker services. Pursuant to that contract, MYR selected AM Trans as the broker for a project to move a large crane and AM Trans hired Full Throttle as the carrier to move the crane. During transit, the crane was involved in an accident and totaled. The question before the Court is whether Plant Site is entitled to summary judgment on MYR's claim that Plant Site breached the contract with MYR by not having verified Full Throttle's insurance. Because the Plant Site/MYR contract is ambiguous and there are triable issues of fact, the Court DENIES Plant Site's motion. Dkt. [73].

         I. Facts and Background

          Under Rule 56(a), the Court views and recites the evidence in the light most favorable to MYR Equipment, LLC and draws all reasonable inferences in MYR's favor. Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009).

         MYR provides heavy equipment to the utility-construction industry. Dkt. 1 ¶ 3. In May 2013, MYR and Plant Site Logistics, Inc. entered into a contract (the “Agreement”) in which Plant Site agreed to help MYR find qualified brokers and motor carriers to ship MYR's equipment to its customers. Dkt. 74-1. To ensure that MYR only worked with qualified businesses, Plant Site agreed to “verify carrier and broker insurance certification.” Id. at 2.

         After entering into the Agreement, the owner of AM Trans, Inc. (a freight broker) and Full Throttle Transport, LLC (a motor carrier) asked Plant Site about doing business with MYR. Dkt. 74-2. Plant Site told MYR about the request, and MYR responded that it wanted to use AM Trans as a broker but did not want to use Full Throttle as a motor carrier because it had poor safety ratings. Id. at 1-2. After Plant Site verified that AM Trans had the required insurance, dkt. 74-3; dkt. 75 at 4, MYR, AM Trans, and Plant Site signed a Transportation Contract for Freight Broker (the “Transportation Contract”), which authorized AM Trans to act as a broker for MYR. Dkt. 74-5.

         On December 10, 2015, MYR used Plant Site's software to solicit bids from motor carriers and brokers willing to transport a Peterbilt Boom Crane Truck (the “Crane Truck”) from Oregon to Minnesota. Dkt. 74-6. This was a “drive away” shipment, meaning the motor carrier would need to hire someone to personally drive the Crane Truck to its destination, rather than load it on another truck for shipment. Id. MYR selected AM Trans to broker the shipment. Dkt. 75 at 4. AM Trans hired Full Throttle to deliver the Crane Truck. Dkt. 1 ¶¶ 25-26; dkt. 1-3. Plant Site not verify Full Throttle's insurance. Dkt. 83 at 5.

         A few days later, the Full Throttle employee who was transporting the Crane Truck was involved in an accident, and the Crane Truck was destroyed. Dkt. 1 ¶ 13; dkt. 74-7 at 1; dkt. 74-8. When Full Throttle filed a claim with its cargo-insurance provider, the insurance provider concluded that the accident fell outside of the cargo policy because the Crane Truck was not being transported as cargo but was “being driven under its own power during transportation.” Dkt. 74-8. The insurance company therefore denied the claim. Id.

         Seeking reimbursement for the wrecked Crane Truck, MYR filed a complaint on February 13, 2017, against Plant Site, AM Trans, and Full Throttle. Dkt. 1. AM Trans and Full Throttle failed to appear or otherwise defend the case, dkt. 31; dkt. 33, so the Clerk entered default against them, dkt. 35; dkt. 36. In its claim against Plant Site, MYR alleges that Plant Site breached the Agreement by failing verify Full Throttle's insurance. Dkt. 1 ¶¶ 31-36. Plant Site seeks summary judgment, arguing that it fulfilled its contractual duties to MYR by verifying AM Trans's insurance and that it had no duty to verify Full Throttle's insurance. Dkt. 73.

         II. Applicable Law

         Summary judgment shall be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party must inform the court “of the basis for its motion” and specify evidence demonstrating “the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party meets this burden, the nonmoving party must “go beyond the pleadings” and identify “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324. In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the evidence “in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Zerante, 555 F.3d at 584 (citation omitted).

         In a diversity case, courts apply federal procedural law and state substantive law. Allen v. Cedar Real Estate Grp., LLP, 236 F.3d 374, 380 (7th Cir. 2001) (citing Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)). Rules for interpreting contracts are substantive, so the Court must apply state law in resolving the parties' dispute. Id. Neither party has raised a choice-of-law issue, so Indiana's substantive law applies. McCoy v. Iberdrola Renewables, Inc., 760 F.3d 674, 684 (7th Cir. 2014). This Court is required to faithfully follow Indiana law by applying existing precedent and where it is not clear, trying to “predict how the [Indiana] supreme court would act given the chance.” In re Zimmer, NexGen Knee Implant Prod. Liability Litig., 884 F.3d 746, 750 (7th Cir. 2018).

         III. Discussion

         Plant Site argues that it is entitled to summary judgment because it was not required by the terms of the Agreement to verify the insurance of motor carriers hired by brokers and therefore not required to verify Full Throttle's insurance. MYR argues that under the Agreement, Plant Site was obligated to verify all motor ...

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