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HASSELRODE v. GNAGEY. (06/26/61)

June 26, 1961

HASSELRODE, APPELLANT,
v.
GNAGEY.



Appeal, No. 236, March T., 1960, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Somerset County, No. 930 C.D., 1958, in case of Fred L. Hasselrode v. William D. Gnagey, trading and doing business as Gnagey Dairy Company et al. Judgment affirmed; reargument refused July 28, 1961.

COUNSEL

Archibald M. Matthews, with him Edward O. Spotts, and Palmer & Elkins, of the West Virginia Bar, for appellant.

Joseph N. Cascio, with him Paul E. C. Fike, and Fike and Cascio, for appellees.

Before Jones, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Bok and Eagen, JJ.

Author: Jones

[ 404 Pa. Page 550]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BENJAMIN R. JONES.

This appeal requires the construction and interpretation of a release given by an injured person in relinquishment of his claims for personal injury damages.

Fred L. Hasselrode (Hasselrode), on August 24, 1956, was a passenger in an automobile driven by Frank R. Carnegie (Carnegie) when it collided with a truck owned by William D. Gnagey trading as Gnagey Dairy Company (Dairy Company) and, as a result of this accident, Hasselrode sustained personal injuries. On December 19, 1956, Carnegie paid Hasselrode $1,518.87 and Carnegie received from Hasselrode a release reciting, inter alia, that he "... remised, released, and forever discharged, and by these presents do for myself, my heirs, executors and administrators and assigns, remise, release and forever discharge the said Frank R. Carnegie, his successors and assigns, and/or his, her, their and each of their associates, heirs, executors and administrators, and any and all other persons, associations

[ 404 Pa. Page 551]

    and corporations, whether herein named or referred to or not, of and from any and every claim, demand, right, or cause of action, of whatsoever kind or nature, either in law or in equity, arising from or by reason of any bodily and/or personal injuries known or unknown sustained by me, and/or damage to property, or otherwise, as the result of a certain accident which happened on or about the 24th day of August, 1956, for which I have claimed the said Frank R. Carnegie to be legally liable, but this release shall not be construed as an admission of such liability."

On August 1, 1958, Hasselrode instituted a trespass action in the Court of Common Pleas of Somerset County against the Dairy Company for damages arising out of the accident. The Dairy Company joined Carnegie as an additional defendant and Carnegie, by way of answer, averred that he was discharged of any liability by reason of the release given him by Hasselrode. The Dairy Company answered the new matter pleaded by Carnegie and then amended its own answer to plead the release given by Hasselrode to Carnegie as a defense to Hasselrode's action against the Dairy Company. Hasselrode filed a reply averring that the release given to Carnegie was not intended to, nor did it, release the Dairy Company. The court below entered a judgment on the pleadings against Hasselrode and in favor of both the Dairy Company and Carnegie; from this judgment, Hasselrode now appeals.

Did the release given by Hasselrode to Carnegie effect a discharge of Hasselrode's claim against the Dairy Company?

The Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act*fn1 provides, inter alia: "A release by the injured person of one joint tortfeasor, whether before or after judgment, does not discharge the other tortfeasors unless

[ 404 Pa. Page 552]

    a release not only of Carnegie but also of the Dairy Company. No other result can logically be arrived at without torturing, misconstruing and, in effect, rewriting the language of the release given by Hasselrode to Carnegie.

Disposition

Judgment affirmed.

ING OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE ...


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