Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Non-Settling Defendants Precluded From Referencing Joint Tortfeasor Settlement with Another Med Mal Defendant

In the case of Snyder v. North American Partners in Anesthesia, No. 19-CV-83 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Nov. 12, 2021 Nealon, J.), the court granted a Plaintiff’s Motion In Limine in a medical malpractice case and precluded a non-settling Defendant and an Additional Defendant from referencing a joint tortfeasor settlement that the Plaintiff had entered into with a non-party.  The Court also precluded any reference to the Plaintiffs’ previous assertion of a malpractice claim against that former party.

The court noted that the former Defendant, who had secured a joint tortfeasor settlement had previously secured a Discontinuance relative to this action and a removal as a named Defendant.

In so ruling, the court referred to 42 Pa. C.S.A. §6141(c) which provides that, “[e]xcept in an action in which final settlement and release has been pleaded as a complete defense, any settlement or payment…shall not be admissible in evidence on the trial of any matter.” 

Judge Nealon noted that, based upon the plain language of this provision, evidence of any prior settlements is inadmissible at any trial on any matter.

The court additionally noted that Pennsylvania Rule of Evidence 408(a)(1) similarly prohibited the admissibility or use of any offer or acceptance of valuable consideration in compromising or attempting to compromise a claim. The court noted that, under the comment of that Rule of Evidence, it is indicated that “Pa.R.E. 408 is consistent with 42 Pa.C.S. §6141 in excluding any evidence of a joint tortfeasor settlement.”

On the basis of this law, the court granted the Plaintiff’s Motion In Limine.

The court additionally granted the Plaintiff’s Motion seeking to prohibit the non-settling Defendants from mentioning the fact that the Plaintiff’s originally asserted a malpractice claim against the settling Defendant. In this regard, the court made a distinction between factual allegations, which could be deemed to be judicial admissions, and allegations of legal conclusions, which could not be deemed to be judicial admissions.

As such, the court noted that certain factual allegations regarding specific documentation created by the relevant medical witnesses and parties may be offered as judicial admissions but any allegations by the Plaintiffs concerning the causal negligence by the settling Defendant or its agents would not be allowed to be introduced into evidence.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

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