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Dial Temporary Help Service v. DLF Int'l Seeds

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 09-26-2012
Case #: A145062
Armstrong, P.J. for the Court; Haselton, J.; and Duncan, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/Publications/A145062.pdf

Contract Law: Where the parties disagree as to the limitations of damages in the contract and where both parties constructions are plausible, absent extrinsic evidence, the parties will construe the ambiguity against the drafter.

Dial Temporary Help Service, Inc. ("Dial") appealed a summary judgment motion granted in favor of DLF International Seeds ("DLF"). Dial supplied laborers to DLF pursuant to a contract which stated 1) that Dial's employee's are not authorized to operate machinery of DLF's without obtaining consent from Dial, and 2) that the insurance coverage provided by Dial does not cover liability for "injury or damages caused by the operation by [Dial's] employee's of [DLF's] equipment...it is further agreed that [DLF] accepts full responsibility for bodily injury..." Despite the contract, one of Dial's workers used a blender and lost his hand. Subsequently the worker filed a worker's compensation claim and as a result Dial was required to pay a retrospective premium of $241,000. Dial filed this action for breach of contract against DLF for the amount of the retrospective premium. Dial asserted that the contract imposed no limits on the damages for which DLF was liable. Alternatively, DLF contended that damages were limited by the contract to the cost to indemnify Dial against liability for damages and injuries that resulted from the breach of the contract. The trial court concluded the injury was not a result of his use of the blender and granted summary judgment to DLF. The Court of Appeals held that both parties' proposed construction of the contract was plausible, making the contract ambiguous, and absent any extrinsic evidence the contract is construed against the drafting party, Dial. Affirmed.