Mills v. Standard Title Ins. Co.

Decision Date24 April 1978
Docket NumberNo. C-1274,C-1274
Citation577 P.2d 756,195 Colo. 281
PartiesWalter Bevan MILLS and Bonnie Roberts Mills, Petitioners, v. STANDARD TITLE INSURANCE CO., an Arizona Corporation and Denver Abstract Co.,a Colorado Corporation, d/b/a Titles, Incorporated, Respondents.
CourtColorado Supreme Court

Rodden & Marshall, Paul B. Rodden, David T. Fisher, Denver, for petitioners.

Dawson, Nagel, Sherman & Howard, Raymond J. Turner, Kenneth D. Siegel, Denver, for respondent Standard Title Ins. Co.

James G. Martin, Boulder, for amicus curiae Colorado Trial Lawyers Ass'n.

GROVES, Justice.

The plaintiffs, Walter and Bonnie Mills, appealed from a judgment in favor of the defendant, Standard Title Insurance Company (Standard), in a slander of title action. The court of appeals, Colo.App., 568 P.2d 79, affirmed and the Mills petitioned for a writ of certiorari which we granted. We now affirm.

The Mills and Charles Crosby were involved in a dispute over the ownership of certain mortgaged real property which had been subjected to a foreclosure sale. Both the Mills and Charles Crosby wished to redeem the property. To obtain a loan of funds for his redemption, Crosby sought a title commitment from Standard which would not reflect the Mills' right of redemption. Upon Crosby's execution of an agreement indemnifying Standard against any liability resulting from the issuance of the commitment, Standard issued the requested title commitment. The loan was made to Crosby and he redeemed.

The Mills then sued Crosby and the new mortgagee to establish the Mills' interest in the property and to obtain damages. After Crosby's death, the action was settled. In connection with the settlement a mutual release was executed, which provided:

"(E)ach of the parties hereby releases and discharges the other, their heirs and personal representatives or assigns, from all and all manner of actions and causes of action, judgments, executions, debts, dues, claims and demands of every kind and nature whatsoever which either party ever had or now has, or which their heirs, personal representatives or assigns have now or may hereafter have, against the other party, and particularly by reason of the issues contained in Civil Action No. 3817 in the District Court in and for Pitkin County, Colorado."

The Mills subsequently brought this action against Standard for slander of title in the issuance of its title commitment and policy without noting the Mills' interest. Standard thereafter brought in the Estate of Crosby as a third party defendant, based upon the indemnity agreement signed by Crosby.

The trial court found that Crosby and Standard were joint tortfeasors, since each participated in the disparagement of the Mills' title. However, it dismissed the Mills' claim on the ground that the release of Crosby's estate also operated as a release of Standard. As stated, the court of appeals affirmed.


The Mills contend that a release of one tortfeasor does not discharge another unless the release so specifies. We approve the following statement by the court of appeals.

"The release did not reserve any right of action against Standard. Where, as here, the release is of a general nature, and there is no implicit preservation of a right to continue against other tortfeasors, those other tortfeasors are also released. Farmers Elevator Co. v. Morgan, 172 Colo. 545, 474 P.2d 617 (1970); Cox v. Pearl Investment Co., 168 Colo. 67, 450 P.2d 60 (1969)."

In Farmers Elevator Co. v. Morgan, 172 Colo. 545, 474 P.2d 617 (1970), this court stated:

"Cox left intact the rule that the release of one joint tort-feasor releases all. Cox indicated, however, that the express intent of parties reaching an agreement to preserve the right to sue other joint tort-feasors will be given effect."

As to this and other cases not affected by the legislation about to be mentioned, we adhere to the case law of this state that, absent a manifestation of a contrary intent, a release of one joint tortfeasor releases all joint tortfeasors.

The General Assembly has changed this result with regard to releases made after July 1, 1977. Colo.Sess.Laws 1977, ch. 195, 13-50.5-105 at 810. This statute does not apply retroactively: "This act shall take effect July 1, 1977, and shall apply to events occurring on and after that date." Colo.Sess.Laws 1977, ch. 195, 13-50.5-106 at 810.


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5 cases
  • Cingoranelli v. St. Paul Fire and Marine Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • February 14, 1983
    ...the nature of the claim and the objective circumstances underlying the execution of the instrument. See, e.g., Mills v. Standard Title Ins., 195 Colo. 281, 577 P.2d 756 (1978); Farmers Elevator Co. v. Morgan, 172 Colo. 545, 474 P.2d 617 (1970); Cox v. Pearl Investment Co., 168 Colo. 67, 450......
  • Coniaris v. Vail Associates, Inc.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • October 23, 1978
    ...the occurrence which gave rise to the claim for contribution as being the "event" referred to in Section 2. Mills v. Standard Title Insurance Co., Colo., 577 P.2d 756, 758 (1978). Thus, since each of the settlements or judgments in this constitutes an "event" referred to in Section 2 and oc......
  • Meyer v. Stern
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Colorado
    • December 14, 1984
    ...not to sue." Farmers Elevator Co. of Sterling v. Morgan, 172 Colo. 545, 549, 474 P.2d 617 (1970). See also Mills v. Standard Title Ins. Co., 195 Colo. 281, 283, 577 P.2d 756 (1978). Moreover, in an analogous context, Colorado statutes now provide that "a release given to one or more persons......
  • Summey v. Lacy, 78-675
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals
    • December 14, 1978
    ...common law principle that the release of one joint tortfeasor ordinarily releases other joint tortfeasors. See Mills v. Standard Title Insurance Co., Colo., 577 P.2d 756 (1978); Farmers Elevator Co. v. Morgan, 172 Colo. 545, 474 P.2d 617 (1970). The court in Sams, supra, took the position t......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Set-off Under the Contribution and Collateral Source Statutes
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Lawyer No. 21-7, July 1992
    • Invalid date
    ...annc'd 4/23/92). 2. Cingoranelli v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins., 658 P.2d 863 (Colo. 1983); Mills v. Standard Title Insurance Co., 577 P.2d 756 (Colo. 1978); Price v. Baker, 352 P.2d 90 (Colo. 1959); Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Co. v. Sullivan, 21 Colo. 302, 41 P. 501 (1895). 3. Cingoran......

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