The Second Department determined the trial evidence supported the ruling that two facially ambiguous releases executed by the (a gasoline supplier) and the former owner of the gas station precluded an action by plaintiff, the current owner of the gas station, to recover from defendant plaintiff’s expenditures for the cleanup of leaked gasoline.:
Where a releasee asserts a lack of liability based upon a general release, the burden of proof is on the releasor to show that “the general language of the release, valid on its face and properly executed, is to be limited because of a mutual mistake, or otherwise does not represent the intent of the parties” … . ” [I]t is not a prerequisite to the enforceability of a release that the releasor be subjectively aware of the precise claim he or she is releasing'” … . Thus, at a trial encompassing an assertion by a defendant that it is not liable for the damages claimed by the plaintiff due to a general release that contains equivocal language, rendering it ambiguous on its face, the plaintiff must be afforded an opportunity to establish that the releases were not intended to deprive him or her of the claimed damages … .
Here, although the releases were ambiguous on their faces as to whether they encompassed unknown claims for environmental contamination, the plaintiff failed to adduce evidence at the trial sufficient to support a finding that they did not, whereas the defendant adduced evidence showing that the releases were intended to be general releases. Burnside 711, LLC v Amerada Hess Corp., 2019 NY Slip Op 06165, Second Dept 8-21-19