Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The meaning and extent of coverage of a release.

Practice point:  The Appellate Division affirmed the denial of defendant-physician's motion to dismiss on the grounds that a general release executed by plaintiffs bars plaintiffs' action against him.

The release provides, in pertinent part, that, in exchange for defendant-hospital's payment to plaintiffs of $25,000, plaintiffs released the hospital, its insurer, and their "agents, servants, employees, [and] staff," from "all . . . actions, causes and causes of action . . . which against the [hospital] the plaintiffs ever had." The Appellate Division found that, even if defendant-physician were a member of defendant-hospital's staff, the release is expressly limited only to causes of action that plaintiffs had against defendant-hospital, and does not release any other tortfeasors not expressly named therein from liability for causes of action asserted against them, pursuant to General Obligations Law § 15-108[a]. 

Student note:  The meaning and extent of coverage of a release necessarily depend, as in the case of contracts generally, upon the controversy being settled and upon the purpose for which the release was actually given.  A release may not be read to cover matters which the parties did not desire or intend to dispose of.

Case:  Linn v. New York Downtown Hosp., NY Slip Op 03992 (1st Dep't May 24, 2016)

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow's issue: A fall at the public library.