This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Jeff Reinert, et al.,
Edina Realty, Inc.,
Filed March 20, 2007
Affirmed as modified
File No. C5-03-8884
Judith Mlinar Seeberger, Reding & Pilney, P.L.L.P., 8661
Eagle Point Boulevard, Lake Elmo, MN 55042 (for respondent Market America
Brian N. Johnson, Halleland Lewis Nilan & Johnson, P.A.,
600 U.S. Bank Plaza South, 220 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for
respondents Jeff Reinert, et al.)
Stanford P. Hill, David A. Turner, Bassford Remele, P.A., 33
South Sixth Street, Suite 3800, Minneapolis, MN 55402-3707 (for appellant)
and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Ross, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Edina Realty, Inc., (Edina) challenges the
district court’s determination that a settlement between respondent Market
America Corporation (Market America)
and respondent Jeff Reinert/Natural By Design Inc. (Reinert) was not a complete
release, but rather a Pierringer
release. Although the district court erred in characterizing the release as a Pierringer, because none of the parties
were prejudiced by this error in the conduct of the subsequent trial, we affirm
D E C I S I O N
America brought suit against
Reinert and Edina
seeking joint and several damages totaling $491,726. Market America and Reinert participated in
mediation which resulted in a settlement. Edina
chose not to participate in the mediation. Over Edina’s
objection, the district court ruled that the settlement between Reinert and
Market America was a Pierringer release and allowed Market America to proceed to trial with its claim
At trial, the jury
was instructed that Reinert and Market America had settled their dispute but
that this settlement should not influence the jury’s determinations. The jury determined that Market America had
proved its claims and awarded $85,000 in total damages, apportioning fault as
follows: Market America 10%, Reinert 40%, Edina 50%.
agree with Edina
that the district court erred in its pretrial determination that the settlement
is a Pierringer release. But we reject Edina’s argument that, if the
settlement was not a Pierringer
release, the settlement was a general release and the district court erred by
allowing Market America to
proceed to trial on its claims against Edina.
A Pierringer release “reserves the plaintiff’s right to maintain a
cause of action against any nonsettling defendant, but releases from liability
any defendant who is a party to the settlement agreement.” Hosley
v. Armstrong Cork Co., 383 N.W.2d 289, 292 (Minn. 1986). The basic elements of a Pierringer release are:
The release of the settling defendants from the action and the discharge of a
part of the cause of action equal to that part attributable to the settling
defendants’ causal negligence;
the reservation of the remainder of plaintiff’s causes of action against the
nonsettling defendants; and
plaintiff’s agreement to indemnify the settling defendants from any claims of
contribution made by the nonsettling parties and to satisfy any judgment
obtained from the nonsettling defendants to the extent the settling defendants
have been released.
v. Snelgrove, 269 N.W.2d 918, 920 n.1 (Minn. 1978).
Here, the terms of the settlement
provided that Reinert would pay Market America $20,000 in exchange for
“mutual complete releases and stipulations of dismissals with prejudice and without costs to any party” with no exceptions. The settlement does not contain any language
reserving Market America’s
claims against Edina or any agreement by Market America to indemnify Reinert against any future
claims for contribution from Edina.
Because the agreement lacked the
essential elements of a Pierringer
release, the district court erred by labeling the settlement agreement a Pierringer release.
agues that by reaching a settlement with Reinert without a Pierringer release, Market America
released Edina. We disagree.
When a settlement agreement does not contain a Pierringer release, the “release of one alleged tortfeasor will
release all others only if the
settlement agreement manifests such an intent, or if the plaintiff received full compensation in law or in fact
for damages sought against the remaining tortfeasors.” Johnson
v. Brown, 401 N.W.2d 85, 88 (Minn. App.
1987), review denied (Minn. Apr. 23,
1987); see also Bixler by Bixler v. J.C. Penney Co., 376 N.W.2d 209, 214-15 (Minn. 1985); Gronquist
v. Olson, 242 Minn. 119, 128, 64 N.W.2d
159, 165 (1954). Thus,
regardless of what form [a] release may take,
as long as it does not constitute an accord and satisfaction or an unqualified
or absolute release, and there is no manifestation of any intention to the
contrary in the agreement, the injured party should not be denied his right to
pursue the remaining wrongdoers until he has received full satisfaction.
Gronquist, 242 Minn. at 128, 64 N.W.2d at 165.
Here, the district court did not
specifically determine whether the settlement between Reinert and Market America was intended to release Edina. But the record indicates that the postsettlement
disagreement between Reinert and Market America
involved the defense against Edina’s cross-claim
and that neither party evidenced an intent to release Edina. In addition, although the district court did
not make a finding as to whether the $20,000 settlement with Reinert fully
compensated Market America’s
damages, the matter was presented to a jury and the jury determined that Market
America had proved its claims and awarded $85,000 in damages. Because neither party to the settlement
agreement intended to release Edina and the
$20,000 settlement did not fully compensate Market America,
we conclude that the district court did not err by allowing Market America to proceed to trial against Edina.
But where the parties to the
settlement do not intend to release all alleged tortfeasors or the plaintiff
has not been fully compensated, the settlement operates as satisfaction pro
tanto to the remaining tortfeasors. Johnson, 401 N.W.2d at 88; Gronquist, 242 Minn. at 128, 64 N.W.2d at 165. Therefore, we reduce the $85,000 jury verdict
by 10% (Market America’s
percentage of fault) and further reduce the award by Reinert’s $20,000
settlement payment to determine Edina’s
remaining liability of $56,500. Consistent
with this analysis, we modify the district court’s damage award and order Edina to pay Market America damages of $56,500.
Affirmed as modified.