law-release-of-claim affirmative defense of release | contract construction | affirmative defenses

Release is an affirmative defense. Tex. R. Civ. P. 94. Releases must be construed like
other contracts
. Stroop v. N. County Mut. Ins. Co., 133 S.W.3d 844, 851 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2004, pet.
denied) (citing Williams v. Glash, 789 S.W.2d 261, 264 (Tex. 1990)). In construing a written contract, the
primary concern of the court is to ascertain the true intentions of the parties as expressed in the instrument.
Coker v. Coker, 650 S.W.2d 391, 393 (Tex. 1983). The
language in a contract is to be given its plain
grammatical meaning unless doing so would defeat the parties' intent. DeWitt County Elec. Coop., Inc. v. Parks,
1 S.W.3d 96, 101 (Tex. 1999).
If a contract can be given a certain or definite legal meaning, then it is not
ambiguous and should be construed as a matter of law. Grain Dealers Mut. Ins. Co. v. McKee, 943 S.W.2d
455, 458 (Tex. 1997). An
ambiguity does not necessarily arise simply because the parties advance different
interpretations of the contract's language. Id.

Victoria Bank &  Trust Co. v. Brady, 811 S.W.2d 931, 938 (Tex. 1991) (recognizing that a claim must be
“mention[ed]” in a
settlement release to be effective, and that general, categorical releases are narrowly
construed)

RELEASE CASE LAW  FROM HOUSTON COURTS OF APPEALS

Ross v. Union Carbide Corp. (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Aug. 25, 2009) (en banc opinion by Guzman)
(survivors'
asbestos claims for exemplary damages and loss of consortium barred by release signed by worker
prior to his death)
AFFIRMED: Opinion by
Justice Eva Guzman    
Before Price, Chief Justice Hedges, Justices Brock Yates, Anderson, Frost, Seymore, Guzman, Brown and
Sullivan  
14-07-00860-CV Marjorie Ross, Joan Seelback, Timothy R. Ross, James R. Ross, Billy R. Ross and Robert R.
Ross v. Union Carbide Corporation   
Appeal from 133rd District Court of Harris County
Trial Court Judge:
Lamar McCorkle
Concurring Opinion by Justice Frost in Marjorie Ross, Joan Seelback, Timothy R. Ross, James R. Ross,
Billy R. Ross and Robert R. Ross v. Union Carbide Corporation  (no point in en banc review)  
Concurring Opinion by Senior Justice Price in Marjorie Ross, Joan Seelback, Timothy R. Ross, James R.
Ross, Billy R. Ross and Robert R. Ross v. Union Carbide Corporation  (disagreeing with supreme court
precedent and reluctantly concurring)

To be afforded the protection of a release, the releasing instrument must specifically
name or identify the party seeking protection.
McMillen v. Klingensmith, 467 S.W.2d 193, 196 (Tex.
1971). A party may properly assert the affirmative defense of release provided the releasing instrument refers
to that party by name or with such descriptive particularity that his or her
identity or connection with the
event giving rise to the release is not in doubt. Duncan v. Cessna Aircraft Co., 665 S.W.2d 414, 420 (Tex.
1984). Because
Texas law treats releases like contracts, we interpret releases like any other
contract. See Williams v. Glash, 789 S.W.2d 261, 264 (Tex. 1990); Stroop v. N. County Mut. Ins. Co., 133 S.W.
3d 844, 851 (Tex. App.--Dallas 2004, pet. denied).

Crowder v. Crowder Estate Trust (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] Oct. 4, 2007)(Radack)(release)
AFFIRM TC JUDGMENT: Opinion by
Chief Justice Radack
Before Chief Justice Radack, Justices Alcala and Bland
01-06-00606-CV Walter F. Crowder, Trustee of the Ann Crowder Estate Trust v. Ann L. Crowder Estate
Trust, John C. Crowder, Ronald Lee Crowder and James C. Crowder, Jr.
Appeal from 405th District Court of Galveston County (Hon Wayne Mallia)


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