Appeal from the Order Entered February 27, 1997, in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Civil Division, at No. 91-22176. Before SMYTH, J.
Before: Beck, Tamilia & Hester, JJ. Opinion BY Hester, J.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hester
John R. Donahue, M.D. appeals following the trial court's denial of his petition for partial summary judgment. *fn1 Appellant maintains that a release signed by John Martin, one of appellees herein, which was executed for the benefit of Mr. Martin's employers, also discharges appellant from liability. The release was signed by Mr. Martin in connection with a settlement reached among appellees and other parties who are not defendants herein due to a work-related injury. Appellant selectively manipulates the language of the release in an attempt to misconstrue its impact upon his potential liability. We affirm.
The following facts are pertinent. Appellee-John Martin was injured at work on November 29, 1989, when he fell from a scaffold at a construction site. Appellee was taken to a nearby hospital where he was evaluated and discharged with instructions to follow-up with an orthopaedic specialist. Appellee was treated by appellant who performed arthroscopic surgery on January 16, 1990.
Appellee's employer asserted that appellee was ineligible for worker's compensation benefits since he was an independent contractor. Appellee filed a claim against the contractor with whom he was employed and the general contractor who hired that subcontractor to perform work on the property. As part of the settlement reached among appellee and the above-named parties, appellee's attorney drafted a release on July 22, 1991, which, in consideration of $36,000.00, discharged appellee's employers from any further responsibility for payment of damages that might occur as a result of the injuries suffered by appellee. The release specifically named Dennis Satnick, Inc., Heydt Plaster & Stucco, Inc., and any other party who may have been responsible for his fall. *fn2 Further, the release made clear that appellee agreed to forfeit his right to pursue monetary damages for any future, unexpected consequences, known or unknown, which he might suffer, or any medical treatment which he might need to pursue as a result of the accident. See General Release, Exhibits 2 and 3.
On November 18, 1991, appellees, John Martin and his wife, Tammy Martin, filed a medical malpractice action against appellant, Dr. John R. Donahue. In the complaint, appellees alleged that the surgery performed by appellant in January, 1990, was unnecessary and improperly performed. Moreover, they averred that appellant failed to treat and evaluate Mr. Martin's condition properly.
When appellant learned of the release signed by Mr. Martin, he filed a motion for leave to amend new matter to include the defense of the release and a motion for partial summary judgment claiming that the release was intended to discharge liability of all involved parties. *fn3 Appellees countered that the release was intended to discharge only the named parties from liability. The court denied the motion for partial summary judgment, but permitted the amendment to new matter on June 6, 1994. On April 18, 1996, appellant filed a second motion for partial summary judgment, which was denied on September 3, 1996. On October 3, 1996, the court denied appellant's motion to seek certification for interlocutory appeal and granted appellant's motion to bifurcate the issues concerning the release from the liability evidence at trial. A hearing on the release issue was held on October 15, 1996.
At the hearing, the parties stipulated that the release was genuine and authentic. Appellees presented deposition testimony and affidavits of the attorneys for the named parties in the release to support appellees' contention that the document was drafted with the intention of releasing only the named parties from liability. Specifically, appellees maintained that the purpose of the language which discharges any claims resulting from medical treatment was to discharge only the named parties from responsibility for any future medical expenses which might arise as a result of the work-related injury.
The court entered an order denying appellant's petition for partial summary judgment since it determined that the release did not discharge the medical malpractice claim. The issue was certified for appeal. Appellant raises one issue for review.
I. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT HELD THAT A GENERAL RELEASE DID NOT DISCHARGE ALL CLAIMS OF JOHN MARTIN OF LIABILITY IN HIS MEDICAL MALPRACTICE ACTION FOR INJURIES ARISING FROM MEDICAL TREATMENT CONTRARY TO THE UNAMBIGUOUS TERMS OF THE RELEASE AND WHEN THE COURT FOUND THE EVIDENCE OF INTENT WAS SUFFICIENT TO ALTER THE TERMS OF THE RELEASE?
Appellant's brief at viii.
We are bound by the following standard in reviewing the denial of a grant ...