Bernal v. Feliciano, N12C-09-062 MJB (Del. Super. May 1, 2013)
Delaware Superior Court upholds a general release as validly barring personal injury suit when executed by the Plaintiff pre-suit in settlement with Defendant's insurer.
The Plaintiff filed a suit for personal injuries resulting from a motor vehicle accident with Defendant. Following the accident, the Plaintiff (Spanish-speaking) and Plaintiff's daughter (bilingual) negotiated a settlement amount of $410.00 with Defendant's insurer, Erie Insurance. The Erie adjuster corresponded with Plaintiff's daughter regarding the amount of her lost wages and was faxed documents from Erie, including a general release, with a wage verification sheet.
The Plaintiff executed the general release and received the negotiated settlement amount that was marked as "Full Settlement All Claims-Reimbursement Lost Wages." Plaintiff then filed suit against Defendants, to which a motion for summary judgment was filed based on the general release. The Plaintiff argued that the release was executed with misrepresentations that it was only for lost wages. Defendant denied any misrepresentation and relied on the language of the general release.
In dismissing the case, the Court held that a general release is enforceable where it is clear and unambiguous. The release could not be set aside based on a failure to read the release before signing. Case law supported that despite a plaintiff speaking Spanish, an English language document was not invalidated absent fraud or duress. A Plaintiff is charged with informing herself of the document that is signed. Plaintiff was not permitted to rely on statements of a Defendant's agent.