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JAMES J. BUTTERMORE AND ANN BUTTERMORE v. ALIQUIPPA HOSPITAL MICHAEL ZERNICH (07/06/89)

decided: July 6, 1989.

JAMES J. BUTTERMORE AND ANN BUTTERMORE, HIS WIFE, APPELLEES,
v.
ALIQUIPPA HOSPITAL; MICHAEL ZERNICH, M.D.; BEAVER COUNTY SPORTS MEDICINE, INC.; DONALD KERR, R.P.T.; MICHAEL ZERNICH, M.D. AND DONALD KERR, R.P.T., T/D/B/A PHYSIOTHERAPY AND SPORTS MEDICINE CLINIC; RODNEY ALTMAN, M.D. AND WILLIAM DUMEYER, M.D., V. FRANCES E. MOSER. APPEAL OF MICHAEL ZERNICH, M.D., DONALD KERR, R.P.T., AND WILLIAM DUMEYER, M.D.



Appeal from the Order of November 10, 1987, of the Superior Court at No. 505 Pittsburgh, 1986, Reversing the Order of March 27, 1986 of the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County Civil Division at No. 1597 of 1983. Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Larsen, J., files a concurring and dissenting opinion in which Papadakos, J., joins.

Author: Mcdermott

[ 522 Pa. Page 327]

OPINION

The defendant-appellants, Aliquippa Hospital et al., appeal from the Order of the Superior Court reversing the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County.

The facts occasioning this matter occurred on December 3, 1981, when the appellee, James Buttermore, was involved in an automobile accident with Frances Moser, appellant herein. As a result he suffered lacerations of the head, a cervical injury and numbness in his hands and feet. He was taken by ambulance to the Aliquippa Hospital where he was examined and treated by the appellants. Subsequent to the initial treatment, it was determined that Mr. Buttermore sustained a fracture of his neck in the automobile accident.

On November 14, 1983, Mr. Buttermore, acting without benefit of counsel, executed a release in settlement of his claim against Frances Moser for the sum of $25,000. This release, which is essential to an understanding of this matter, provides as follows:

I/We being of lawful age, for myself/ourselves, my/our heirs, administrators, executors, successors and assigns hereby remise, release, acquit and forever discharge Frances Moser, et al. His/her successors and assigns, and/or his, her, their, and each of their associates, heirs, executors and administrators and any and all other persons, associations and/or corporations, whether known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, past, present and future claims, demands, damages, actions,

[ 522 Pa. Page 328]

    third party actions, causes of action, or suits at law or in equity, indemnity of whatever nature, for or because of any matter or thing done, omitted or suffered to be done, on account of or arising from damage to property, bodily injury or death resulting or to result from an accident which occurred on or about the 3rd day of December, 1981 at or near Aliquippa, Pennsylvania for which I/We have claimed the said Frances Moser, et al. to be legally liable, but this release shall not be construed as an admission of such liability.

On November 30, 1983, Mr. Buttermore and his wife instituted suit, by way of complaint, against appellants, Aliquippa Hospital et al. alleging that the treatment rendered aggravated the injuries sustained by Mr. Buttermore in the accident and that his condition worsened as a result of their negligent treatment, thereby causing irreversible spinal cord trauma and permanent spinal nerve damage. Appellants, in their new matter, raised the release as a defense and then moved for summary judgment which was granted by the trial court. The Superior Court reversed, 368 Pa. Super. 49, 533 A.2d 481, and we granted the instant appeal.

Several issues are presented. The first is a question addressed by this Court on prior occasions, to wit: the effect to be accorded a release which by its terms discharges all claims and parties thereto even though it results in the discharge of others who have not contributed consideration toward the release. Wolbach v. Fay, 488 Pa. 239, 412 A.2d 487 (1980); Estate of Bodnar, 472 Pa. 383, 372 A.2d 746 (1977); Emery v. Mackiewicz, 429 Pa. 322, 240 A.2d 68 (1968); Hasselrode v. Gnagey, 404 Pa. 549, 172 A.2d 764 (1961).

The appellee, Mr. Buttermore, argues that it was not his intent by signing the release in question, to release the appellants from liability. He does not allege that the release was procured by fraud or that he failed to read or failed to understand the nature of its contents. This Court has stated that the effect of a release must be determined

[ 522 Pa. Page 329]

    from the ordinary meaning of its language. Estate of Bodnar, 472 Pa. 383, 372 A.2d 746 (1977). In Hasselrode v. Gnagey, 404 Pa. 549, 172 A.2d 764 (1961) this Court held that a release given to a particular individual and "any and all other persons . . . . whether herein named or not" was applicable to all tort-feasors despite the fact they were not specifically named. See Wolbach v. Fay, 488 Pa. 239, 412 A.2d 487 ...


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