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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Limits Effect Of Release In Vicarious Liability

Posted On Behalf of Schmidt Kramer Injury Lawyers on May 14, 2012 in General

Below is the link to the majority opinion from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on November 24, 2009 in  Maloney v. Valley Medical Facilities where the Court (opinion by Justice Saylor) holds that a plaintiff’s release of a principal whose potential liability is vicarious does not necessarily discharge the plaintiff’s claims against the agent, especially when their has been an express reservation of rights. The Court holds that parties to a settlement should be afforded latitude to effectuate their express intentions. The Court indicates that its decision in  Mamalis v. Atlas Van Lines, 560 A.2d 1380 (Pa. 1989) is limited to a simple fact pattern involving a single principal, a single agent, a single event and consequences of the release of the party bearing primary liability upon settlement” and that is should not be read to apply to a situation with multiple agents, events, tortfeasors, etc.

The case at hand is a medical malpractice case but the Court is specific that its holding is not limited to medical negligence actions. Obviously, it would now be applied in an auto case. Justice Greenspan wrote a dissent and would enforce the release to the principal, even if their has been an express reservation of rights. Justice Saylor’s opinion also has a detailed explanation of the difference between joint tortfeasors and vicarious liability which is worth reading. Scott B. Cooper scooper@Schmidt 717-232-6300