Lennon v. MacGregor, No. 78-369-A

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Rhode Island
Writing for the CourtWEISBERGER
Citation423 A.2d 820
PartiesDoreen M. LENNON v. Linda MacGREGOR et al. ppeal.
Decision Date12 December 1980
Docket NumberNo. 78-369-A

Page 820

423 A.2d 820
Doreen M. LENNON
v.
Linda MacGREGOR et al.
No. 78-369-Appeal.
Supreme Court of Rhode Island.
Dec. 12, 1980.

Norbert Fessel, Providence, for plaintiffs.

Roberts, Carroll, Feldstein & Tucker, Bruce G. Tucker, Providence, for Linda MacGregor and Edwin R. MacGregor, for defendants.

OPINION

WEISBERGER, Justice.

This case is before us on appeal brought by Doreen Lennon (plaintiff), from a grant of summary judgment in favor of Linda and Edwin MacGregor (defendants) by a justice of the Superior Court. The plaintiff argues that the personal injury release, upon which summary judgment was predicated, contained an ambiguity concerning whom the parties intended to release. Therefore, she contends a genuine issue of material fact existed in regard to the scope of the release, thus precluding summary judgment. We agree.

The plaintiff was a passenger on a motorcycle driven by Thomas S. Ey on April 11, 1975, when it was in a collision with an automobile driven by Linda MacGregor and owned by Edwin MacGregor. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of this accident, the treatment of which required prolonged hospitalization, extensive corrective surgery, and comprehensive physical therapy. During plaintiff's recuperation, her parents retained counsel to pursue actions on behalf of both Doreen and themselves.

Their attorney entered into separate settlement negotiations with a representative

Page 821

of Public Service Mutual Insurance Company (P.S.M.I. Co.), the carrier of coverage on the Ey motorcycle, and a claim representative of Aetna Casualty and Life Insurance Company (Aetna), the carrier of coverage on the MacGregor vehicle. Negotiation with the representative of P.S.M.I. Co. proved successful. Thomas Ey's insurer, P.S.M.I. Co., offered to pay policy limits in the amount of $20,000 to plaintiff. Upon proof of the policy limits, plaintiff accepted the $20,000 payment and executed a document entitled "Joint Tortfeasor Release," the first paragraph of which purportedly released "THOMAS S. EY and all other persons, firms or corporations from all claims * * *."

Subsequently, the negotiations with Aetna proved fruitless, and plaintiff commenced suit against the MacGregors. The MacGregors filed a third-party complaint against Thomas S. Ey, the driver of the motorcycle. Mr. Ey produced the release obtained on his behalf by his insurance carrier as a bar to the suit. The MacGregors, upon becoming aware of the release, moved for summary judgment, arguing that the "Joint Tortfeasor Release," heretofore unknown to them, in fact released them from liability, as well as the specifically named party, Thomas S. Ey.

The plaintiff's attorney objected to the motion, arguing that the release was ambiguous and therefore the intent of the parties must be ascertained by extrinsic evidence. Counsel submitted his affidavit to the trial court in which he stated that the parties to the release and their representatives intended to extinguish only the liability of Thomas S. Ey.

The trial justice granted the motion for summary judgment in favor of defendants and in so doing, he ruled, inferentially, that the release was unambiguous as a matter of law. See O'Connor v. McKanna, 116 R.I. 627, 633, 359 A.2d 350, 353 (1976); Cassidy v. Springfield Life Ins. Co., 106 R.I. 615, 619, 262 A.2d 378, 380 (1970). It is our task on appeal, as it was the task of the trial justice, to determine whether a genuine issue of fact exists. 1 Westinghouse Broadcasting Co. v. Dial Media, Inc., R.I., 410 A.2d 986, 990 (1980); O'Connor v. McKanna, 116 R.I. at 633, 359 A.2d at 353.

Superior Court Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) governs the availability of summary judgment. It provides in pertinent part:

"The judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions

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360 practice notes
  • McInnis v. Harley-Davidson Motor Co., Inc., Civ. A. No. 82-0422-S.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Rhode Island
    • January 14, 1986
    ...of `all persons, firms and corporations' is effective to release unnamed third persons not parties to the release." Lennon v. MacGregor, 423 A.2d 820, 821 n. 1 (R.I. 1980). To the contrary, the state's highest tribunal has twice expressly declined opportunities to decide the question becaus......
  • Feller v. Miriam Hospital, C.A. PB 07-5603
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Rhode Island
    • October 30, 2009
    ...but must consider the affidavits and other pleadings in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Lennon v. MacGregor, 423 A.2d 820, 822 (R.I. 1980). During a summary judgment proceeding, "the justice's only function is to determine whether there are any issues involving mat......
  • Feller v. Miriam Hospital, C.A. PB 07-5603
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Rhode Island
    • October 30, 2009
    ...but must consider the affidavits and other pleadings in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Lennon v. MacGregor, 423 A.2d 820, 822 (R.I. 1980). During a summary judgment proceeding, "the justice's only function is to determine whether there are any issues involving mat......
  • Feller v. Miriam Hospital, C.A. PB 07-5603
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Rhode Island
    • October 30, 2009
    ...but must consider the affidavits and other pleadings in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Lennon v. MacGregor, 423 A.2d 820, 822 (R.I. 1980). During a summary judgment proceeding, "the justice's only function is to determine whether there are any issues involving mat......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
360 cases
  • McInnis v. Harley-Davidson Motor Co., Inc., Civ. A. No. 82-0422-S.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Rhode Island
    • January 14, 1986
    ...of `all persons, firms and corporations' is effective to release unnamed third persons not parties to the release." Lennon v. MacGregor, 423 A.2d 820, 821 n. 1 (R.I. 1980). To the contrary, the state's highest tribunal has twice expressly declined opportunities to decide the question becaus......
  • Feller v. Miriam Hospital, C.A. PB 07-5603
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Rhode Island
    • October 30, 2009
    ...but must consider the affidavits and other pleadings in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Lennon v. MacGregor, 423 A.2d 820, 822 (R.I. 1980). During a summary judgment proceeding, "the justice's only function is to determine whether there are any issues involving mat......
  • Feller v. Miriam Hospital, C.A. PB 07-5603
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Rhode Island
    • October 30, 2009
    ...but must consider the affidavits and other pleadings in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Lennon v. MacGregor, 423 A.2d 820, 822 (R.I. 1980). During a summary judgment proceeding, "the justice's only function is to determine whether there are any issues involving mat......
  • Feller v. Miriam Hospital, C.A. PB 07-5603
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Rhode Island
    • October 30, 2009
    ...but must consider the affidavits and other pleadings in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Lennon v. MacGregor, 423 A.2d 820, 822 (R.I. 1980). During a summary judgment proceeding, "the justice's only function is to determine whether there are any issues involving mat......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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