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Law School Case Brief

Daly v. Bergstedt - 267 Minn. 244, 126 N.W.2d 242 (1964)


Indemnity is essentially an equitable doctrine which does not lend itself to hard-and-fast rules and its application may vary depending upon the particular facts in each case. Generally, one of two joint tort-feasors cannot have contribution from the other. But there are exceptions to this rule. One exception arises where although both parties are at fault and both liable to the person injured, yet they are not in pari delicto as to each other, as where the injury results from a violation by one of a duty which he owes to the other, so that, as between themselves, the act or omission of the one from whom indemnity is sought is the primary cause of the injury.


Plaintiff, Marie P. Daly fell in a store operated by defendants James Duffy and Robert Duffy, d.b.a. Duffy Brothers ("Duffy Brothers"). At the time of the accident, new equipment was being installed in the store by defendants John H. Bergstedt and George W. Nielsen, d.b.a. Bergstedt-Nielsen Store Equipment Company, and their employee, defendant Richard A. Hotch (collectively, "Bergstedt-Nielsen"). Daly filed a lawsuit against defendants in Minnesota state court seeking to recover damages for injuries she sustained in the fall. Daly claimed that in addition to a fractured leg, *** cancer that she developed in a spot where she suffered a bruise was also caused by the fall. Duffy Brothers filed a cross-claim for indemnity against Bergstedt-Nielsen. After trial, a jury rendered a verdict for Daly in the amount of $ 40,000. The trial court granted indemnity to Duffy Brothers as against Bergstedt-Nielsen. Bergstedt-Nielsen filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or for a new trial and a motion to set aside the order granting indemnity, all of which were denied. Bergstedt-Nielsen appealed.


Did the trial court err in denying Bergstedt-Nielsen's post-trial motions?




The court affirmed the trial court's orders. The legal determination for responsibility could have differed from medical findings as to the cause of a disease, such as Daly's cancer. The record fairly established that a question of fact as to causation was presented and was properly submitted to the jury. Indemnity was proper because Bergstedt-Nielsen independently created the hazard that actually resulted in the accident.

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