Maxey v. Hospital Authority of Gwinnett County

Decision Date18 March 1980
Docket NumberNo. 35783,35783
Citation245 Ga. 480,265 S.E.2d 779
PartiesMAXEY v. HOSPITAL AUTHORITY OF GWINNETT COUNTY.
CourtGeorgia Supreme Court

Sherman C. Fraser, Atlanta, for appellant.

Walter B. McClelland, Atlanta, W. Howard Fowler, Lawrenceville, for appellee.

PER CURIAM.

Julia Maxey, a pedestrian, was struck by a car driven by William Todd Butler, and suffered multiple injuries resulting in the amputation of her left leg. She sued Butler, but later settled with him and signed a release. Then, she sued the hospital and Dr. Kamal Kumar Rattan for malpractice, which she claims resulted in the loss of her leg. Relying on the release in the Butler suit, the doctor and hospital sought summary judgment, which was denied by the trial court, but reversed on interlocutory appeal by the Court of Appeals. Hospital Authority of Gwinnett County v. Maxey, 151 Ga.App. 777, 261 S.E.2d 716 (1979). The Court of Appeals held that Maxey could not pursue both parties on contradictory theories, citing Gilmore v. Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority, 132 Ga.App. 879, 209 S.E.2d 676 (1974). We granted certiorari to reconcile Gilmore, supra, and our case of Knight v. Lowery, 228 Ga. 452, 185 S.E.2d 915 (1971).

In Gilmore, supra, upon which the Court of Appeals relies, the suit against the first tortfeasor was a wrongful death action for which the plaintiff recovered, at a jury trial, the full value of the deceased's life. The second suit against the hospital authority was, thereafter, barred under the policy against double recoveries. 1 This principle is not controlling here.

The first tortfeasor, the driver of the car, is responsible for all the injuries, including any aggravation by malpractice, if any; but the second tortfeasors, the doctor and hospital, are only liable for their aggravation of the original injuries. Thus, the two suits, one against the original and one against the aggravating tortfeasor, are not necessarily contradictory or mutually exclusive, as held by the Court of Appeals. Rowland v. Vickers, 233 Ga. 67, 209 S.E.2d 592 (1974). The suits, in themselves, therefore, do not amount to a double recovery for the same damage as in Gilmore, supra, and are not repugnant to Code Ann. § 3-114. 2 The intention of the parties at the time of the release of the original tortfeasor thus becomes important.

In KNIGHT V. LOWERY, SUPRA3, this court addressed the question of release in the situation where, as in the case before us, the defendants in the two suits are not joint tortfeasors, and a double recovery is not inherent in the cause of action, as in Gilmore, supra. There, this court adopted what was then the minority view, albeit a trend among state courts, that a release of one tortfeasor was not effective as a release of another tortfeasor, who was not a joint tortfeasor, unless such a release of both was intended.

In Knight, although the release was against "all other persons," the court held that parol evidence was admissible to discern whether the intent of the parties to the release was also to release any claims against the doctor. The rationale was that since the doctor was not bound by the strict terms of a contract to which he was not a party, he could not rely on the strict terms of a contract to which he was not a party; parol evidence was admissible to explain the terms of the release. Compare, Sims v. Bryan, 140 Ga.App. 69, 230 S.E.2d 39 (1976); Grizzard v. Davis, 131 Ga.App. 577, 206 S.E.2d 853 (1974). We today overrule Knight v. Lowery, supra, insofar as it holds that parol evidence is admissible to explain a release "against all the world."...

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20 cases
  • Allison v. Patel
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • November 30, 1993
    ...was requested by defendant, citing Knight v. Lowery, 228 Ga. 452, 185 S.E.2d 915 (1971) (overruled in Maxey v. Hosp. Auth. of Gwinnett County, 245 Ga. 480, 482, 265 S.E.2d 779 (1980); Williams v. Physicians, etc., Hosp., 249 Ga. 588, 592, 292 S.E.2d 705 (1982)); Sims v. Bryan, 140 Ga.App. 6......
  • Travelers Indem. Co. v. A.M. Pullen & Co., 62856
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • March 17, 1982
    ...argues that Ranger was a joint tortfeasor with Pullen and the release of Ranger by Travelers released Pullen. Maxey v. Hospital Auth. of Gwinnett Co., 245 Ga. 480, 265 S.E.2d 779. Our problem with this argument is in finding that the documents passed between Travelers and Ranger constituted......
  • Williams v. Physicians and Surgeons Community Hosp., Inc.
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • June 30, 1982
    ...tortfeasor inures to the benefit of a successive tortfeasor. The Court of Appeals held that under our case of Maxey v. Hospital Authority, 245 Ga. 480, 265 S.E.2d 779 (1980), the claim of appellant, Sarah Williams, against appellee, Physicians and Surgeons Hospital, is barred. We On August ......
  • Macko v. City of Lawrenceville
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • March 11, 1998
    ...necessarily contradictory to or mutually exclusive of their claims against the other defendants. See Maxey v. Hosp. Auth. of Gwinnett County, 245 Ga. 480, 481, 265 S.E.2d 779 (1980), overruled on other grounds, Williams v. Physicians, etc., Hosp., 249 Ga. 588, 292 S.E.2d 705 (1982); see als......
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