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Tull v. Friend

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

March 10, 2015

CYNTHIA B. TULL, Plaintiff,
v.
MASHA ELAINE FRIEND and SARAH E. CASTILLO, Defendants.

Submitted: January 13, 2015

Upon Consideration of Defendant Friend's Motion to Dismiss GRANTED

David A. Boswell, Esquire, Hudson Jones Jaywork & Fisher, LLC, Lewes, Delaware for Plaintiff.

Arthur D. Kuhl, Esquire, Reger Rizzo & Darnall, LLP, Wilmington, Delaware for Defendant Masha Elaine Friend.

Miranda D. Clifton, Esquire, The Law Offices of Cynthia G. Beam, Newark, Delaware for Defendant Sarah E. Castillo.

ORDER

ROBERT B. YOUNG, J.

SUMMARY

In a single action, Cynthia Tull ("Plaintiff") brought a personal injury suit against Masha E. Friend ("Defendant Friend")and Sarah E. Castillo ("Defendant Castillo") resulting from two temporally distinct automobile accidents. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Friend's and Defendant Castillo's negligence resulted in both indivisible and divisible injuries to her.

Defendant Friend and Plaintiff settled their dispute through a Joint Tortfeasor Release, and sought Defendant Castillo's signature in a Stipulation of Dismissal, with respect to Defendant Friend. Defendant Castillo has refused to execute the Stipulation. As a result, Defendant Friend moves to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against her, pursuant to the settlement agreement. Defendant Friend contends that dismissing her from this action, will have no effect on Defendant Castillo's right to off-set any damages imposed against her. Defendant Friend avers that the Delaware Supreme Court has held that, even in the event one defendant settles with a plaintiff, the issue of joint tortfeasor liability may only be determined by the trier of fact. Therefore, Defendant Castillo will retain its right to off-set any damages award from the amount paid to Plaintiff through settlement.

Despite her obstructionist stance, Defendant Castillo has not responded to Defendant Friend's Motion. Regardless of that, the Court finds that Defendant Friend's Motion is well taken. Delaware does, indeed, recognize the preservation of the right of a remaining defendant to off-set damages, where one joint tortfeasor is released from a litigation by settlement agreement. Defendant Castillo's interest will not be prejudiced by Defendant Friend's dismissal. Thus, Defendant Friend's Motion is GRANTED.

FACTS AND PROCEDURES

On July 1, 2010, Plaintiff's Hyundai Elantra was struck from behind by Defendant Friend on County Route 297 in Sussex County, Delaware. According to Plaintiff, she had come to a stop at the road, when Defendant Friend's vehicle made impact. Plaintiff alleges that, at the time of the accident, Defendant Friend was driving too closely behind her, inattentive to the traffic conditions around her. Plaintiff avers that she suffered multiple personal injuries as a result of the crash, including back and chest contusions.

On November 8, 2012, Plaintiff, this time driving a Jeep Cherokee on State Route 202 in Sussex County, was involved in another accident, this time with Defendant Castillo. Defendant Castillo is alleged to have run a red light, crashing into Plaintiff's automobile at 50 mph. The impact caused Plaintiff's Jeep Cherokee to flip over, landing on its roof. Plaintiff alleges that she suffered bodily injuries as a result of the crash.

On November 4, 2013, Plaintiff filed her First Amended Complaint against Defendant Friend and Defendant Castillo, claiming both indivisible and divisible injuries caused by the respective defendants' alleged negligence, in operating their vehicles. On October 23, 2014, Defendant Friend and Plaintiff entered into a Joint Tortfeasors Release, dismissing Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Friend. In addition, Defendant Friend produced a Stipulation of Dismissal, executed by Plaintiff's counsel. Both ...


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