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Delpino v. Spinks

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

August 22, 2014

GREGORY DELPINO, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL SPINKS, Defendant,

Submitted: May 22, 2014

Upon Consideration of Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment

Robert J. Leoni, Esquire, Shelsby & Leoni, Attorney for Plaintiff.

Daniel P. Bennett, Esquire, Mintzer, Sarowitz, Zeris, Ledva & Meyers, LLP, Attorney for Defendant.

OPINION

VIVIAN L. MEDINILLA JUDGE

INTRODUCTION

This personal injury case arises from a June 2011 motor vehicle accident wherein Plaintiff Gregory Delpino ("Plaintiff") was a passenger in a vehicle struck by Defendant Michael Spinks ("Defendant"). Plaintiff brought a personal injury action against Defendant for bodily injuries he claims were proximately caused by the accident. Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and argues entitlement to judgment as a matter of law because Plaintiff executed a valid release with Defendant's insurance carrier and settled all bodily injury claims related to said accident. Plaintiff admits to signing a release but argues it is not binding because his post-release diagnosis is materially different than that which was known at the time the release was executed and thus the product of a mutual mistake of fact. This Court finds the release was not the product of a mutual mistake. Therefore, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On June 12, 2011, Defendant failed to stop at a red light at the intersection of Barley Mill Road and Route 100 in Wilmington, Delaware and struck the front passenger side of a vehicle driven by Plaintiff's girlfriend, Stephanie Dryden ("Dryden"); Plaintiff was the front seated passenger. Eight days after the accident, on June 29, 2011, Plaintiff sought medical treatment for complaints of right shoulder pain with Dr. David Yucha at the Crozer Chester Medical Center ("Crozer"). According to the Crozer records, Dr. Yucha performed an evaluation, opined Plaintiff suffered a right shoulder strain and instructed him to schedule an MRI to "rule out rotator cuff pathology."[1]

Dryden filed bodily injury and property damage claims through Defendant's insurer, Progressive Classic Insurance Company ("Progressive"). On July 6, 2011, approximately one week following Plaintiff's visit to Crozer, he accompanied Dryden to the Progressive office for a meeting she had scheduled with Progressive claims supervisor, Michelle Martineau ("Martineau"). Martineau asked Plaintiff about both his lost wages and bodily injuries related to the accident. Plaintiff explained he had been evaluated by Dr. Yucha and expressed a desire to settle his case. He further informed Martineau that he had been instructed to undergo further diagnostic testing for his right shoulder pain through an MRI.

Plaintiff elected to settle his claim at the July 6 meeting and signed a "Full Release of All Claims with Indemnity" in exchange for a $750 check from Progressive. The language of the release expressly states that personal injury claims were included in the settlement agreement. The single page release states in part:

It is understood and agreed that this settlement is in full compromise of a doubtful and disputed claim as to both questions of liability and as to the nature and extent of the injuries . . . it is understood and agreed that the undersigned rely(ies) [sic] wholly upon the undersigned's judgment, belief and knowledge as to the nature, extent, effect and duration of said injuries and liability therefore.[2] (emphasis added).

Following the execution of the release, Plaintiff continued to experience shoulder pain and eventually underwent an MRI on March 3, 2102, approximately nine months after the accident. The MRI revealed a posterior labral tear and Plaintiff's eventual medical treatment included surgery.

Plaintiff filed the instant action on March 27, 2013. Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on February 27, 2014 and Plaintiff's Response was filed on March 21, 2014. Defendant filed a Reply on April 8, 2014. The Court heard oral arguments on May 22, 2014. After consideration of the written and oral arguments of the ...


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