In Dowling v. Georgia-Pacific Corporation, an employee of Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc. (KBR) was injured at a Georgia-Pacific Corp. (GP) facility at which GP had contracted with KBR to perform construction work. GP settled the claim filed by the injured employee. The settlement did not allocate fault between GP and KBR, but GP sought full indemnification from KBR pursuant to the contract’s indemnification provisions. The district court granted GP’s request for indemnification.  

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling. Interpreting Louisiana law, the court noted that, for a party to be indemnified against its own negligence, the language of the contract must be clear and unequivocal. Because the contract only required KBR to indemnify GP to the extent of losses arising out of KBR’s conduct and the settlement agreement had failed to assign any fault to KBR, GP’s request for indemnification potentially covered GP’s own negligence. The court, therefore, held that the language of the contract was not clear enough to require KBR to indemnify GP under such circumstances.  

Dowling v. Georgia-Pacific Corp., 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 24911 (5th Cir. Dec. 10, 2008)