The opinion of the court was delivered by: GOURLEY
In this proceeding based on negligence under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, 45 U.S.C.A. § 51 et seq., motions for summary judgment have been filed in behalf of Pennsylvania Railroad Company, original defendant, and Warner Brothers Pictures, Inc., third-party defendant, predicated upon a release executed by plaintiff to Warner Brothers Pictures, Inc.
For purposes of brevity the following abbreviations will be employed:
Pennsylvania Railroad Company -- 'Railroad'
Warner Brothers Pictures, Inc. -- 'Warner'
The issue posed may be succinctly stated as follows:
Plaintiff sustained personal injuries as the result of an accident which occurred upon Warner sidewalk in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The instant proceeding was instituted to recover damages from Railroad employer under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, predicated upon Railroad's negligence in requiring plaintiff to walk along a dangerous route while in a fatigued condition.
It is not contested that plaintiff signed a release
whereby under consideration of $ 1,375 paid by Warner he released Warner from liability by reason of plaintiff's fall on Warner's sidewalk, nor does plaintiff deny the effect of the release in terminating his claim against Warner.
Motion to Dismiss as to Pennsylvania Railroad
At pre-trial conference, this court ruled that the release adverting to 'Warner Brothers Pictures, Incorporated, and all other persons, firms, and corporations' was ambiguous and directed that a hearing be held to determine the intentions of counsel for the plaintiff and the insurance adjuster for Warner at the time the settlement was negotiated. I am satisfied that their testimony established that both of the negotiating parties had no specific intention of releasing Railroad, but intended affirmatively and specifically to release Warner and any person connected with or related to Warner.
The issue takes on its proper perspective when the question is evaluated from the point of view of whether an action premised upon an Act of Congress, serving a federal purpose, can be rendered nugatory and impotent by the release of a joint tortfeasor, when the original tortfeasor in no way contributed any share in payment of said release nor was within the contemplation of the parties at the time said release was executed.
In spite of the apparent dearth of authority upon the subject, it is my judgment that where an action in the Federal Court serves a federal purpose, the release of an additional defendant who contributes to payment of a claim or judgment does not release the noncontributing defendant upon whom liability is predicated under Federal Statute. United States ex rel. Marcus v. Hess, 3 Cir., 154 F.2d 291.
Another cogent reason exists for denying the applicability of the Warner release to Railroad. Assuming that Warner was negligent in failing to provide a safe crossing due to the accumulation of ice and snow, its negligence was an independent and concurrent circumstance. Between Warner and Railroad there was no concert of action, common design or duty, joint enterprise or other relationship such as would make them joint tortfeasors. Where the independent tortious acts of two persons combine to produce an injury, individual in its nature, either tortfeasor may be held for the entire damage, not because he is responsible for the act of the other but because his own act is regarded in law as a cause of the injury. Miller v. Union Pacific R. Co., 290 U.S. 227, 54 S. Ct. 172, 78 L. Ed. 285; Restatement of Torts, Vol. 2, Section 430, Comment d.
In the case of such independent concurring torts, the release of one wrongdoer does not release the other. Husky Refining Co. ...