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RALEIGH v. PETERSON

July 31, 1958

Frank RALEIGH and Celeste Esther Raleigh, his wife, Plaintiffs,
v.
Edith C. PETERSON, Defendant. Edith C. PETERSON, Third-Party Plaintiff, v. Frank R. FOLLETT, Third-Party Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FOLLMER

This cases stems from an automobile collision in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, on October 29, 1955. Plaintiff, Celeste Esther Raleigh, was a passenger in car owned and operated by Frank R. Follett, when the Follett car collided with car owned and operated by defendant, Edith C. Peterson. Raleigh and Follett were citizens of New York and Peterson was a citizen of Pennsylvania. Follett is brought in the case as a third-party defendant. The complaint in the instant case was filed September 6, 1957.

Defendant Peterson answered and set forth, inter alia, as a defense that Frank Raleigh and Celeste Esther Raleigh, his wife, brought suit in the Supreme Court of New York against Frank R. Follett for the identical injuries sustained in the identical accident as set forth in the instant complaint and which case came to trial before a Judge and jury on June 10, 1957. Verdicts were obtained in the said New York action against Frank R. Follett and judgments were entered on June 12, 1957, to wit: $ 5,000 in favor of Celeste Esther Raleigh and $ 3,400 in favor of Frank Raleigh, which judgments have been paid and satisfied of record.

 Third-party defendant Follett then answered and set forth, as affirmative defenses, inter alia, the New York suit, judgment and satisfaction as set forth by defendant Peterson, and also that on May 12, 1956, defendant and third-party plaintiff Peterson did release and forever discharge Follett 'from any and all claims, demands, damages, costs, expenses, loss of services, actions and causes of action, arising from any act or occurrence up to the present time and particularly on account of all personal injury, disability, property damage, loss or damages of any kind already sustained or that I may hereafter sustain in consequence of an accident that occurred on or about the 29 day of October 1955, at or near Lebanon, Pennsylvania.' A copy of the said release was attached to the answer from which it appears that the consideration for the release was $ 2,250.

 Third-party defendant moved for summary judgment in his favor and against the defendant and third-party plaintiff for the reason that the release given as aforesaid was a general release and a complete bar to all claims and demands of any kind or nature which defendant and third-party plaintiff has or may have in the future by reason of the certain accident and collision on October 29, 1955; that furthermore the said release is a bar to defendant and third-party plaintiff's right of contribution from third-party defendant.

 Motion of third-party defendant Follett for summary judgment was refused on the authority of Davis v. Miller, 385 Pa. 348, 123 A.2d 422. This case held in substance that where the plaintiff in an action of trespass releases the additional defendant pursuant to the Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act of July 19, 1951, P.L. 1130, 12 P.S. § 2082 et seq., the original defendant is entitled to retain the additional defendant as a party in the case for the purpose of having the additional defendant's liability as a joint tortfeasor determined, even though the original defendant is not entitled to contribution from the additional defendant by reason of his own release.

 The matter is presently before the Court on two motions:

 1. Motion of defendant to dismiss.

 2. Motion of third-party defendant for partial summary judgment.

 In her motion to dismiss defendant Peterson gives as her reason in support thereof that 'From all the pleadings it appearing that the plaintiffs, Frank Raleigh and Celeste Esther Raleigh, brought an action against Frank R. Follett, third party defendant, in the Supreme Court of Monroe County of the State of New York to recover damages for identical injuries received in the collision involved in the present controversy, and after trial a verdict in the amount of $ 5,000 was rendered for plaintiff, Celeste Esther Raleigh, and a verdict rendered in favor of Frank Raleigh in the amount of $ 3,400, upon both of which verdicts judgment was entered, paid and marked satisfied July 12, 1957, therefore, the plaintiffs having recovered a judgment and satisfaction against one of two alleged joint tortfeasors they may not maintain this action against the defendant, Edith C. Peterson, the other alleged joint tortfeasor.'

 This motion involves the construction of Pennsylvania's Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act, supra. The pertinent portions of this Act provide as follows:

 '(Section 1.) For the purpose of this act, the term 'joint tortfeasors' means two or more persons jointly or severally liable in tort for the same injury to persons or property, whether or not judgment has been recovered against all or some of them.

 '(Section 2.) (1) The right of contribution exists among joint tortfeasors; * * *

 '(Section 3.) The recovery of a judgment by the injured person against one joint tortfeasor does not discharge the other joint tortfeasors.

 '(Section 4.) A release by the injured person of one joint tortfeasor, whether before or after judgment, does not discharge the other tortfeasors unless the release so provides, but reduces the claim against the other tortfeasors in the amount of the consideration paid for the release or in any amount or proportion by which the release ...


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