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Release of Agent or Principal from Liability Releases Both from Liability
Description A plaintiff successfully sued an agent for tort liability. Upon accepting a settlement of the matter, the plaintiff signed a general release of all claims. By doing so, the Connecticut high court held, the plaintiff released the agent and the principal from liability, so the plaintiff could not then sue the principal.
Topic Agency
Key Words Respondeat Superior, Vicarious Liability
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Ziolo, while working in the scope of her employment for the New Haven Register, ran her car into the back of Alvarez's car, injuring Alvarez, who sued Ziolo. The matter went to arbitration for settlement; Alvarez agreed to accept $90,000 from Ziolo's insurance company, and signed a "full release of all claims and demands." Alvarez then sued the Register for further damages, claiming the employer was vicariously liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior for the negligent acts of its employee. The Register asserted that the claim was barred because of the general release signed by Alvarez in the settlement with Ziolo. The trial court held that the release signed by Alvarez served to release Ziolo and her employer, the Register. Alvarez appealed.
Decision Affirmed. Under the common law, "where the liability of a principal for a tort committed by his agent is predicated solely upon the doctrine of respondeat superior, a valid release of either operates to release the other." Alvarez could have sued either or both parties because there was joint liability in this instance. "Upon a showing of agency, vicarious liability increases the likelihood that an injury will be compensated, by providing two funds from which a plaintiff may recover." There may not be double recovery and, when a release of all claims was signed, that indicated that the plaintiff released the principal and the agent.
Citation Alvarez v. New Haven Register, 249 Conn. 709 (Sup. Ct., Conn., 1999)

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