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GRIFFIN v. UNITED STATES

January 18, 1973

Richard J. GRIFFIN and Mary Jane Griffin, his wife
v.
UNITED STATES of America


Newcomer, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: NEWCOMER

NEWCOMER, District Judge.

 The issue now before the Court is the legal effect of a release given by plaintiffs to Charles Pfizer Company on the amount for which the United States is liable to plaintiffs in this case.

 The facts are undisputed. In 1965, the plaintiffs filed four separate actions based on the circumstances which gave rise to the present case. Two were cases in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania against, generally, the Montgomery County Medical Society. One was in this Court against Charles Pfizer. One was in this Court against the United States. The Montgomery County Medical Society brought in Pfizer as an additional defendant in the main Montgomery County case. The United States never moved to make Pfizer a third party defendant in the case now before the Court.

 In 1971, Pfizer settled with plaintiffs. The settlement was memorialized in a document which reads as follows:

 
KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS that we, RICHARD J. GRIFFIN and MARY JANE GRIFFIN, his wife, for and in consideration of the payment of Three Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($350,000.) by Pfizer Inc. (sued as Chas. Pfizer & Co., Inc.) receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, and by this Release do, for ourselves, our heirs, executors and assigns, release and discharge the said Pfizer Inc., its successors and assigns from all claims, damages, liability, actions or causes of action on account of or in any way growing out of the ingestion by wife-plaintiff of Sabin Live Oral Polio Vaccine in November 1963 in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and all illnesses and disabilities alleged to have resulted therefrom which became the subject of a suit brought by the said Richard J. and Mary Jane Griffin in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Civil Action No. 39036, and also became the subject of certain other suits commenced against various defendants (but not including the United States of America) in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County.
 
Should it appear that two or more persons or entities are jointly or severally liable in tort for the alleged injuries to wife-plaintiff, the consideration for this Release shall be received in reduction of the total damages recoverable against all the other tortfeasors to the extent of the pro-rata share of the said Pfizer Inc., and we specifically reserve all claims and causes of action arising out of the above mentioned incident against all the other tortfeasors.
 
The payment made to us is upon our warranty that we have not received heretofore any consideration whatever for, nor have we released heretofore any person, firm or corporation from any claim or liability for the said sickness and disability allegedly arising from the said ingestion of vaccine, and we agree to hold harmless and indemnify the said Pfizer Inc. of and from any loss, liability, growing out of any claim against it for contribution of any alleged tortfeasor under the Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act.
 
We further state that we have carefully read the foregoing Release and know the contents thereof and are signing the same as our own free acts. We further intend to be legally bound by the promises herein contained.
 
WITNESS our hands and seals this day of 1971, in the presence of:
 
s/ H. Gilbert Daley Jr. s/ (SEAL)
 
RICHARD J. GRIFFIN
 
s/ Heather-Jo Daley s/ ...

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