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A contractual agreement by which one individual assents to relinquish a claim or right under the law to another individual against whom such claim or right is enforceable.
The right or claim given up in a release ordinarily involves contracts or torts. A general release encompasses all claims that are in existence between the parties and are within their contemplation when the release is executed. A specific release is generally limited to the particular claims specified therein.
No particular form or language is required for a release, provided the contract is complete and clearly indicates the releasor's intention. In the absence of a specific statutory provision, releases need not be in writing.
In order for it to take effect, a release must be supported by adequate consideration. Provided something of value is received, the consideration will be deemed adequate. The consideration can take various forms—such as payment to an employee for time lost due to an injury, in exchange for a release of the employee's damage claim; or repossession of a particular item in exchange for the release or discharge of a debt.
Since it is a contract, a release is subject to the same validity requirements as a contract. A voluntary release that is obtained in exchange for valuable consideration from an individual who is capable of totally understanding its legal effect is valid. An individual who signs a release has the obligation to read its contents prior to executing it; the person cannot have the release set aside because he or she has not become familiar with its contents. A release is not void merely because the bargain was unwise.
In situations where a release has been executed as a result of a mutual mistake that significantly affects the parties' rights, it can be set aside. In order to ascertain whether a release was executed under mutual mistake, all of the circumstances regarding the signing of the release must be taken into consideration, including the sum paid for release and whether the issue of liability was in dispute at the time the settlement was made.
An innocent Misrepresentation that is relied upon by the releasor justifies setting aside a release induced by it. For example, by relying on a medical diagnosis for an injury sustained, an individual might sign a release in exchange for a particular sum of money. If, subsequently, the individual discovers that the injury is more serious than was indicated by the initial diagnosis, the release can be set aside, since the claims were released based on misrepresentation.
Fraudulent representations made by the releasee and relied on by the individual who gives up the claim for injury will also invalidate a release.
Under the Common Law, when an individual who had been injured by the wrongful acts of two or more persons acting in concert—known as joint tortfeasors—executed a release to one of the defendants, the releasor was regarded as having relinquished the claim against all the defendants, unless rights against them were clearly and specifically reserved in the release.
This rule proved to be unfair, however, because it forced the injured party to give up an entire claim against all tortfeasors without necessarily being totally compensated. Few jurisdictions still apply this rule. Most states currently permit a plaintiff to continue an action against the remaining joint tortfeasors after one of them has been released from liability unless the plaintiff has made an intentional surrender of the claim or has been totally compensated. An agreement of this type is called a Covenant not to sue—the plaintiff does not give up the lawsuit but agrees not to enforce the claim against a particular joint tortfeasor although the others are still liable.
1) v. to give up a right as releasing one from his/her obligation to perform under a contract, or to relinquish a right to an interest in real property. 2) v. to give freedom as letting out of prison. 3) n. the writing that grants a release.
RELEASE. Releases are of two kinds. 1. Such as give up, discharge, or abandon a right of action. 2. Such as convey a man's interest or right to another, who has possession of it, or some estate in the same. Touch. 320; Litt. sec. 444; Nels. Ab. h.t.; Bac. Ab. h.t.; Vin. Ab. h.t.; Rolle's Ab. h.t.; Com. Dig. h.t.
RELEASE, contracts. A release is the giving or discharging of a right of
action which a man has or may claim against another, or that which is his.
Touch. 320 Bac. Ab. h.t.; Co. Litt. 264 a.
2. This kind of a release is different from that which is used for the purpose of convoying real estate. Here a mere right is surrendered; in the other case not only a right is given up, but an interest in the estate is conveyed, and becomes vested in the release.
3. Releases may be considered, as to their form, their different kinds, and their effect. Sec. 1. The operative words of a release are remise, release, quitclaim, discharge and acquit; but other words will answer the purpose. Sid. 265; Cro. Jac. 696; 9 Co. 52; Show. 331.
4.-Sec. 2. Releases are either express, or releases in deed; or those arising by operation of law. An express release is one which is distinctly made in the deed; a release by operation of law, is one which, though not expressly made, the law presumes in consequence of some act of, the releasor; for instance, when, one of several joint obligors is expressly released, the others are also released by operation of law. 3 Salk. 298. Hob. 10; Id. 66; Noy, 62; 4 Mod. 380; 7 Johns. Rep. 207.
5. A release may also be implied; as, if a creditor voluntarily deliver to his debtor the bond, note, or other evidence of his claim. And when the debtor is in possession of such security, it will be presumed that it has been delivered to him. Poth. Obl. n. 608, 609.
6.-Sec. 3. As to their effect, releases 1st, acquit the releasee: and 2dly, enable him to be examined as a witness.
7.-1st. Littleton says a release of all demands is the best and strongest release. Sect. 508. Lord Coke, on the contrary, says claims is a stronger word. Co. Litt. 291 b.
8. In general the words of a release will he restrained by the particular occasion of giving it. 3 Lev. 273; 1 Show. 151: 2 Mod. 108, n.; 2 Show. 47; T. Raym. 399 3 Mod. 277; Palm. 218; 1 Lev. 235.
9. The reader is referred to the following cases where a construction has been given to the expressions mentioned. A release of "all actions, suits and demands," 3 Mod. 277: "all actions, debts, duties, and demands," Ibid. 1 and 64; 3 Mod. 185; 8 Co. 150 b; 2 Saund. 6 a; all demands," 5 Co. 70, b; 2 Mod. 281; 3 Mod 278; 1 Lev. 99; Salk. 578; 2 Rolle's Rep. 12 Mod. 465; 2 Conn. Rep. 120; "all actions, quarrels, trespasses" Dy. 2171 pl. 2; Cro. Jac. 487; "all errors, and all actions, suits, and writs of error whatsoever," T. Ray. 3 99 all suits," 8 Co. 150 of covenants," 5 Co. 70 b.
10.-2d. A release by a witness where he has an interest in the matter which is the subject of the suit or release by the party on whose side he is interested, renders him competent. 1 Phil. Ev. 102, and the cases cited in n. a. Vide 2 Chitt. It. 329; 1 D. & R. 361; Harr. Dig. h.t.; Bouv. Inst. Index, h.t.
RELEASE, estates. The "conveyance of a man's interest or right, which he
hath unto a thing, to another that hath the possession thereof, or some
estate therein." Touch. 320.
2. The words generally used in such conveyance, are, "remised, released, and forever quit claimed." Litt. sec, 445.
3. Releases of land are, in respect of their operation, divided into four sorts. 1. Releases that enure by way of passing the estate, or mitter l'estate. (q.v.) 2. Releases that enure by way of passing the right, or mitter le droit. 3. Releases that enure by enlargement of the estate; and
4. Releases that enure by way of extinguishment. Vide 4 Cruise, 71; Co. Lit. 264; 3 Marsh. Decis. 185; Gilb. Ten. 82; 2 Sumn. R. 487; 10 Pick. R. 195; 10 John. R. 456; 7 Mass. R. 381; 8 Pick. R. 143; 5 Har. & John. 158; N. H. Rep. 402; Paige's R. 299.