mistake must relate to an existing fact and not merely to the future result or progress of an existing and known injury.'
I think the evidence is susceptible to the conclusion that plaintiff went to the claim agent in an endeavor to collect wages for the time he had prior thereto lost because of the accident. The agent's testimony tends to support that view. He, the agent, then called one of defendant's doctors for information. The information gained was this and only this: That plaintiff had a chest contusion and had been given a return to work card on the 21st. In plain language a contusion is no more than a bruise, without broken skin.
It was in the light of this information that the agreement, in form a release, was entered into. There is nothing in the record that I recall which indicates that either or both of the parties acted in knowledge of a broken bone. It is true that the rib was broken but that is not enough, if that fact was unknown to the contracting parties. They could make no binding contract concerning a condition that was utterly unknown to them. It was because of the evidence indicating a lack of knowledge of the broken rib that the issue of mutual mistake was submitted to the jury for decision.
An annotation, commencing on page 1022 of 117 A.L.R., interestingly reviews cases bearing on the avoidance of a release for mistake or fraud. Commencing at the bottom of page 1027 and ending at the top of the next page, the case of Shetina v. Pittsburgh Terminal Coal Corporation, 119 Pa.Super. 425, 179 A. 776, is discussed. While it is a compensation case, the facts and legal principles involved were quite similar to those in the instant case. It supports the views herein expressed.
The case of Callen v. Pennsylvania Railroad Company, 3 Cir., 162 F.2d 832, 833, is one in which it was claimed that a mutual mistake voided a release. In many respects the facts in the Callen case are quite similar to the facts of this case. If there be a substantial difference, this case is the stronger on the facts. In that case McLaughlin, J., speaking for the Court in an exceptionally strong opinion, said: 'There was thus in the trial some evidence of mutual mistake regarding Callen's injuries, an important element in the settlement. That evidence in order to void the release, had to be clear, unequivocal, and convincing. Chicago & N.W. Ry. Co. v. Wilcox, 8 Cir., 116 F. 913, 914; Restatement of Contracts, Sections 502, 511. Whether the testimony here considered fulfilled those conditions was for the jury to pass upon under the guidance of the Court's instructions.'
The language of the opinion clearly indicates the Court's opinion that the issue of mutual mistake should have been submitted to the jury.
Judge McLaughlin's opinion in the Callen case was reviewed and affirmed by the United States Supreme Court, 332 U.S. 625, 68 S. Ct. 296, 297, 92 L. Ed. 242. Mr. Justice Jackson, speaking for that Court said: 'An examination of the record at the trial makes it clear that the issue was raised and sharply litigated as to whether the injury, if received by plaintiff in the manner alleged, was permanent in character. Only when and if this issue was resolved in favor of one party or the other could it be known whether there was a basis for finding a mutual mistake or any mistake of fact in executing the release. The (District) court, however, resolved the issue of permanence of injury against the defendant, at least so far as the release was concerned, and on that basis withdrew consideration of that issue from the jury. Even if the issue of permanence were resolved against the defendant, an issue still existed as to validity of the release since the defendant insists that it did not act from mistake as to the nature and extent of the injuries but entered into the release for the small consideration involved because, upon the evidence in its hands at the time, no liability was indicated. We think the defendant was entitled to argue these contentions to the jury and to have them submitted under proper instructions.'
The motion should be denied. It is so ordered.
© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.