The Fourth Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the release signed by plaintiff in this snowmobile accident case was enforceable and the complaint should have been dismissed. Plaintiff was a passenger on the snowmobile and she and the driver were represented by the same law firm. The settlement was for $25,000. Plaintiff signed the release but allegedly did not receive any compensation. The decision is comprehensive and well worth consulting; it addresses substantive issues not summarized here:
… [D]efendant met his initial burden of establishing that he was released from any claims by submitting the release executed by plaintiff … . As defendant contends, “the language of [the] release is clear and unambiguous” and plaintiff’s action against defendant to recover for personal injuries is barred … . * * *
The release in this case contains preliminary broad language releasing defendant from “any and all claims, demands, damages, costs, expenses, loss of services, actions, and causes of action whatsoever . . . arising from any act or occurrence up to the present time and particularly on account of BODILY INJURY, loss or damages of any kind” that plaintiff sustained or may sustain as a consequence of the accident, which is later narrowed by the language stating that the “agreement only releases the parties named above with respect to BODILY INJURY damages arising out of the accident” and that the “agreement does not waive any other party or parties from making any other claims that are not discharged or settled by this release” … . It is well established that where the language of a release is “limited to only particular claims, demands, or obligations, the instrument will be operative as to those matters alone, and will not release other claims, demands or obligations” … .
Even so, the release of defendant for any “bodily injury damages” arising from the accident clearly and unambiguously encompasses plaintiff’s action against defendant to recover for personal injuries sustained in the accident … . Putnam v Kibler, 2022 NY Slip Op 06574, Fourth Dept 11-18-22
Practice Point: Absent any of the traditional factors which will invalidate a contract, the unambiguous language of a release will be enforced to prohibit any further litigation in the matter.