TORTS (general release; mutual mistake): Bobbitt v. Collins (COA 1/22/2010)


2007-CA-001422 01/22/2010 2010 WL 199308

Opinion by
Judge Wine; Judges Stumbo and Thompson concurred. The Court reversed
and remanded summary judgment orders dismissing personal injury claims
arising from a multi-vehicle collision. The Court held that the trial
court did not err in finding that the clear language of a general
release discharged all the defendants. Because the claimant did not make
a timely acceptance of an offer of judgment and the settling defendants
did not extend the settlement offer beyond the ten-day period allowed
by CR 68, the settlement offer was subject to ordinary contract law. The
Court then held that the trial court correctly found that the general
release, signed by the claimant, was enforceable as a contract
provision. Because the release was not ambiguous, the trial court was
not required to look beyond its terms to interpret it. However, the
Court held that the trial court erred in finding that the release
precluded the claimant from seeking rescission and that the parol
evidence rule precluded an equitable claim for rescission or reformation
based on fraud, illegality or mutual mistake. The Court then held that
the evidence clearly established a mutual mistake and that the parties
to the contract never intended the general release language to be
included. Therefore, the trial court erred by denying the request for
rescission of the release.

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