Defendant Who Settles Case Usually Has No Right of Contribution from Other Defendants
Description Missouri high court held that a physician who settled a malpractice case out of court could not then sue the maker of a vaccine for contribution in order to cover his settlement. The settlement affected only the liability of the physician, not the maker of the vaccine, to the plaintiff. The physician had no claim against the vaccine maker for loss of reputation since there was no evidence of damage.
Topic Torts
Key Words Loss of Reputation; Fraud; Right of Contribution; Settlement
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Dr. Fetick administered a polio vaccine, made by American Cyanamid (AC), to three-month old Danny. Soon after, Danny was treated negligently for an unrelated medical condition at a hospital; he contracted polio and was left paralyzed. Danny sued Fetick, AC, and the hospital. Before trial, Fetick settled for $290,000. Danny dismissed AC from the suit and proceeded against the hospital, which was found responsible and settled for $16 million. Fetick sued AC for fraud, damage to his reputation, and for $290,000 contribution for his settlement with Danny. The trial court dismissed the suit, the appeals court affirmed; Fetick appealed.
Decision Affirmed. A defendant who settles is barred from seeking contribution against another defendant unless the settling defendant has discharged the liability of the other defendant. Fetick settled with Danny; his settlement did not affect the liability of AC, so there is no right of contribution. The claim of fraud and loss of reputation are dismissed because Fetick provided no evidence that AC acted in such a way as to injure his reputation. There was no evidence that he suffered a loss of income or that any other physician thought he had done anything wrong in treating Danny. The only complaint came from Danny's family and that issue was settled.
Citation Fetick v. American Cyanamid Co., - SW3d - (2001 WL 220199, Sup. Ct., Mo., 2001)

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