consideration of $ 75,000 is not suspiciously low; and the release was given on advice of counsel and by agreement reached in the very presence of the New York Court. For the reasons implied in the preceding comment it is apparent that the cases could be distinguished. It is unnecessary to do so, however, since the present matter can be decided without recourse to local procedural law and in full accord with ample authority of decisions of courts of the United States.
Other contentions and authorities need not be recited here in view of the propositions stated in the cases discussed in the section to follow, which are believed to be applicable and controlling.
IV. Controlling Principles and Authorities
Even were this a Jones Act case instead of a diversity tort action, plaintiff could recover only once for any one injury. Romero v. Frank's Casing Crew and Rental Tools, Inc., 229 F.Supp. 41 (W.D.La.1964). In that case a maritime tort release given to certain oil companies was held to bar a subsequent Jones Act suit against plaintiff's employer, for whom plaintiff was working on drilling for the oil companies. Thus it seems pointless to give special weight to the finely printed words Admiralty General Release which appear at the upper left corner of Defendants' Exhibit F. See also McCarthy v. American Eastern Corp., 175 F.2d 724 (3rd Cir. 1949).
It should not be assumed that the rule requiring 'jealous scrutiny of any release executed by a seaman' is to be applied here. Bonici v. Standard Oil Company, 103 F.2d 437 (2nd Cir. 1939). Instead, the following quotation from Johnson v. Andrus, 119 F.2d 287, 288 (2nd Cir. 1941), is deemed applicable:
'* * * there was not a shadow of overreaching in its procurement; to set it aside would in effect deny to seamen the freedom to settle their controversies upon their own terms, which * * * would serve in no sense to protect them, but on the contrary would force them to a suit in every case.' Johnson v. Andrus, 119 F.2d 287, 288 (2nd Cir. 1941).
Although the New York state action did not proceed to jury verdict, it is nevertheless worth considering the doctrine of estoppel. Baltimore Steamship Co. v. Phillips, 274 U.S. 316, 47 S. Ct. 600, 71 L. Ed. 1069 (1927) concerned successive actions to recover damages for the same injury. The Court applied the general rule 'that a judgment or decree upon the merits concludes the parties as to all media concludendi or grounds for asserting the right, known when the suit was brought.' In this connection it is noted that the present defendants were given notice to come in and defend in the New York proceeding; thus the presence of a claim against them was obviously known to the plaintiff at the time of settlement.
Since the New York action was never submitted to the jury the foregoing case is applicable only by analogy. As witness to the strong policy against piecemeal litigation, however, it cannot be denied. At 274 U.S. 320, 47 S. Ct. at 602, the court collects authority for the longstanding principle that
* * * the whole tendency of our decisions is to require a plaintiff to try his whole cause of action and his whole case at one time. * * *'
It is the opinion of this Court that the efficacy of the release is governed by state law, on the reasoning of Bank of America National Trust & Savings Ass'n v. Parnell, 352 U.S. 29, 33, 77 S. Ct. 119, 1 L. Ed. 2d 93 (1956). It concerned a diversity suit by a California bank in a federal district court in Pennsylvania to recover the value of certain United States bonds alleged to have been converted in Pennsylvania. It was held that although the plaintiff's original cause of action was created by federal law,
'* * * The present litigation is purely between private parties and does not touch the rights and duties of the United States. The only possible interest of the United States in a situation like the one here, exclusively involving the transfer of Government paper between private persons, is that the floating of securities of the United States might somehow or other be adversely affected by the local rule of a particular State regarding the liability of a converter. This is far too speculative, far too remote a possibility to justify the application of federal law to transactions essentially of local concern.' Bank of America National Trust & Savings Association v. Parnell, 352 U.S. 29, 33-34, 77 S. Ct. 119, 121 (1956).
Enough has already been said to show that the present private litigation has fewer federal overtones than that of the case last quoted. Thus state law of New York or Pennsylvania is deemed applicable -- and it is not necessary to distinguish between the New York and Pennsylvania aspects involved since the law, for all that is before the court, is the same in both states concerned. In fact, the principles applicable here, as stated in the following case, are those of the Restatement of Torts 885, believed to be the least technical and least stringent of any rules of any state which could be invoked. Matland v. United States, 285 F.2d 752 (3rd Cir. 1961).
In the Matland case, the executrix for the estate of an airline passenger brought a Federal Tort Claims action against the United States for the alleged negligence of government employees resulting in a collision of airliners, and the death of the widow-executrix's husband. 28 U.S.C.A. 1346(b). The court noted that
'* * * The Executrix settled the claim against the airlines for a consideration of $ 75,000 on behalf of the widow and children. The release stated that for the consideration paid 'I do hereby release and forever discharge (United Air Lines, Inc. and Trans World Air Lines, Inc. and their employees) from any and all actions, causes of actions (etc. * * *) sustained by me in consequence of (a certain specified) accident * * *." Matland v. United States, 285 F.2d 752, 753 (3rd Cir. 1961).
Most of the contentions of the present plaintiff are echoed and disposed of, adversely to the plaintiff, in the course of further discussion by the late Judge Goodrich. The following principle was deemed applicable:
'Restatement, Torts § 885(1) (1939), (which) provides:
"(1) A valid release of one tortfeasor from liability for a harm, given by the injured person, discharges all others liable for the same harm, unless the parties to the release agree that the release shall not discharge the others and, if the release is embodied in a document, unless such agreement appears in the document."
The conclusion of the Court is embodied in the following quotation:
'* * * The Restatement rule does not rely upon any technical notion of what constitutes a joint tortfeasor. Since the plaintiff asserted the liability of the airlines in a former suit, we think the Supreme Court of Arizona would apply the Restatement rule in this case despite plaintiff's present denial of liability on the part of the airlines.' Matland v. United States, 285 F.2d 752, 755 (3rd Cir. 1961).
It is obvious that the Pennsylvania rule as to releases is more stringent than that of the Restatement and of such general federal law as there may be. Garrett v. Moore-McCormack Co., 317 U.S. 239, 63 S. Ct. 246, 87 L. Ed. 239 (1942). It has not been shown that the applicable New York law as to releases is any more favorable to plaintiff. True, plaintiff has argued that a partial release is in New York construed as a covenant not to sue, but that contention may be disregarded since this Court finds the New York release (Exhibit F) to be general and complete rather than partial. In those circumstances, and giving the plaintiff the benefit of all doubts as to the applicable state and federal law as to the effect of releases, plaintiff's position cannot be maintained.
For all the foregoing reasons, it is the conclusion of this Court that the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment be granted and it is so ordered.
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