Jamerson v. Quintero (CA1 11/7/13)

“We hold that  . . .  when a principal is jointly and severally liable for the fault of its agent, a stipulated dismissal with prejudice of the principal does not as a matter of law bar a claim against the agent.”

This is a slip-and-fall in a drug store. Plaintiff sued Walgreen’s and its janitorial service. She settled with Walgreen’s. The janitorial service then moved for dismissal, on the principle that the release of the principal releases the agent.

This principle may not be familiar to those with more than a foggy grasp of the law of agency since theory, and the practice of the common law, are to the contrary. But dictum in a 1945 case citing Am. Jur. supported it as did, the court points out, a 1963 passage in A.L.R. We think and hope that the court is suggesting – and we think and hope that most lawyers understand – the foolishness of relying on such as Am. Jur. and A.L.R. They are (or were, in the days before the internet) ways of finding cases; to rely on their legal conclusions is lazy and amateurish (except, of course, when you can’t find cases that actually say some favorable thing that Am.Jur., etc. say they do).

But the court avoids common-law problems by relying instead on UCATA. Principal and agent are still jointly and severally liable (12-2506); release of one joint tortfeasor doesn’t release the other (12-2504). The janitorial service argued that 2504 doesn’t apply, citing a case (Law 2007) involving the release of the agent. The court explains – using some good common-law theory without quite acknowledging it as such – that Law can’t apply to the converse situation.

This opinion uses the U.S. Supreme Court page format recently adopted by our Supreme Court. We don’t recall seeing this in a CA2 opinion yet but presumably its only a matter of time until everyone is sophisticated, or modern, or whatever somebody thinks this is. (Do they really think it modern? Should we tell them that its older than their “old” format?)

(link to opinion)