Sweet release

Chiappone v North Shore Univ. Hosp., 2018 NY Slip Op 05569 [2d Dept 2018]

The meaning and coverage of a release necessarily depends upon the controversy being settled and upon the purpose for which the release was given (see Cahill v Regan, 5 NY2d 292, 299; Nucci v Nucci, 118 AD3d 762, 763). While a broad general release will be given effect regardless of the parties' unexpressed intentions, such "release may not be read to cover matters which the parties did not intend to cover" (Gale v Citicorp, 278 AD2d 197; see Cahill v Regan, 5 NY2d at 299; Mazzurco v PII Sam, LLC, 153 AD3d 1341, 1342; Clerico v Pollack, 148 AD3d 769, 771; Nucci v Nucci, 118 AD3d at 763; Desiderio v Geico Gen. Ins. Co., 107 AD3d 662, 663; Apfel v Prestia, 41 AD3d 520, 520-521; Hughes v Long Is. Univ., 305 AD2d 462, 462-463).

Contrary to the Supreme Court's determination, NSUH failed to establish, as a matter of law, that the release executed by the parties settling Action No. 1 was intended to preclude the plaintiff from recovering for claims that allegedly arose during and as a result of the second admission, which were not yet in dispute at the time the release was executed (see Glassberg v Lee, 82 AD3d 836, 837; Apfel v Prestia, 41 AD3d at 521; Alcantara v 603-607 Realty Assoc., 273 AD2d 329, 329-330). While the plaintiff may have been aware of the incident giving rise to Action No. 2 when she signed the release, any such awareness is insufficient, itself, to establish that the release was intended to cover any potential claims which were not the subject of Action No. 1. Accordingly, the court should have denied NSUH's motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against it.

Bold is mine.

Matter of Travelers Home & Mar. Ins. Co. v Fiumara, 2018 NY Slip Op 05681 [2d Dept 2018]

The petitioner then commenced this proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 75 to permanently stay arbitration on the ground that the SUM claim was barred by the general release. The appellant opposed the petition, arguing that she was not barred from pursuing the claim against the petitioner because her SUM claim did not exist at the time that the general release was given. The Supreme Court rejected the appellant's argument and granted the petition.

"A release is a contract, and its construction is governed by contract law" (Schiller v Guthrie, 102 AD3d 852, 853 [internal quotation marks omitted]; see Cardinal Holdings, Ltd. v Indotronix Intl. Corp., 73 AD3d 960, 962). A valid general release will apply not only to known claims, but "may encompass unknown claims, . . . if the parties so intend and the agreement is fairly and knowingly made'" (Centro Empresarial Cempresa S.A. v América Móvil, S.A.B. de C.V., 17 NY3d 269, 276, quoting Mangini v McClurg, 24 NY2d 556, 566-567; see A.A. Truck Renting Corp. [*2]v Navistar, Inc., 81 AD3d 674, 675; Matter of Brooklyn Resources Recovery, 309 AD2d 931, 932). "Where a release is unambiguous, the intent of the parties must be ascertained from the plain language of the agreement" (Schiller v Guthrie, 102 AD3d at 853-854 [internal quotation marks omitted]; see Sicuranza v Philip Howard Apts. Tenants Corp., 121 AD3d 966, 967-968; Alvarez v Amicucci, 82 AD3d 687, 688). Here, the general release, in clear and unambiguous terms, releases all claims and future claims the appellant had or may have against the petitioner by reason of the subject accident. The plain language of the release thus precludes the appellant's SUM claim against the petitioner.

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