The building fell down. Someone should pay.

Boxcars Properties, the operator of an apartment complex, sued its neighboring landowners West Hills Park and Home Depot in Texas state court, complaining about development activity that led to a “lack of lateral support” and made the complex uninhabitable. Williams v. Home Depot, Inc. (Sept. 22, 2014, unpublished).  Boxcars settled with Home Depot and obtained a $2.4 million verdict against West Hills, which then filed for bankruptcy.

West Hills sought indemnity from Home Depot, and the district court and Fifth Circuit rejected its request.  The indemnity provision contained an exclusion for “the tortious acts of . . . other parties” — such as West Hills.  Noting that “[t]he express negligence doctrine alone may be sufficient to deny [debtor’s] claim,” the Court decided on the basis of issue preclusion, agreeing with the district court that “the negligence finding was essential to the judgment because only that finding allowed for the damages for improvements to land included in the state court verdict.”

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