Thornton v. Charleston Area Med. Ctr
In Thornton v. Charleston Area Med. Ctr., 158 W. Va. 504, 213 S.E.2d 102 (1975), the Court upheld the introduction of parol evidence in determining the intention of the parties in executing a general release as to whether that release governed successive tortfeasors or, in essence, strangers to the original release.
The Court held in syllabus points five and six of Thornton that:
The execution of a general release in favor of the original tort-feasor or dismissal with prejudice of a civil action against such tort-feasor is prima facie evidence of the intention of the injured party to accept the same as full satisfaction of all damages which naturally flow from the original injury, in the absence of language or circumstances in the release or dismissal indicating a contrary intention of the parties; but whether such release or dismissal is a bar to further action for malpractice against the treating physician or hospital providing care is a question of fact to be answered from the intention of the parties.
To determine the intention of the parties with reference to release of successive tort-feasors, the injured party is entitled to introduce parol evidence to explain the terms of a contract of release in favor of, or the circumstances attendant to a dismissal with prejudice of a civil action against, the original tort-feasor.
(158 W. Va. at 505, 213 S.E.2d at 103, Syl. Pts. 5 and 6.)