Monday, June 20, 2022

Post-Injury Waiver of Liability Agreement Allowed to Stand (For the Most Part)

In the case of Pavlak v. Coolican, No. 21-CV-3060 (C.P. Lacka. Co. May 25, 2022 Nealon, J.), Judge Terrence R. Nealon of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas addressed issues related to a post-injury Release/Settlement as compared to a pre-injury exculpatory agreement.

By way of background, the Plaintiff in this matter, who had dental implants inserted and later removed by the Defendant dentist, executed a “refund of money and release of liability” agreement under which the dentist refunded the Plaintiff’s earlier payment for the implant procedures in exchange for a General Release from liability or any claim related to those dental services.

In this matter, the Plaintiff commenced a declaratory judgment action asserting that the refund/release Agreement was unenforceable as being in violation of Pennsylvania public policy and due to the lack of supporting consideration.

The Plaintiff’s public policy argument was based upon the provision in the agreement which prohibited the Plaintiff from filing an administrative complaint with the State Board of Dentistry.

The court found that this provision barring the Plaintiff from filing a Complaint or providing additional information to the State Board of Dentistry was void as being against clearly expressed public policy as set forth under The Dental Law found at 63 P.S. §122,123.1, and the corresponding regulations which are intended to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

However, Judge Nealon found that the invalid provision of this agreement was not an essential part or primary purpose of the Refund and Release Agreement and that, as such, that invalid provision could be severed from the remaining terms.

The court then found that the remaining terms of the agreement, including the Release from liability in exchange for the refund of the money, were indeed enforceable. The court found that, since the dentist was not legally obligated to refund the Plaintiff’s prior payment, the dentist experienced the required detriment in order to provide consideration to support this agreement.

As such, the court granted the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings to the extent that it sought a judicial determination that the provision barring the Plaintiff from filing an administrative complaint was unenforceable on public policy grounds. However, the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings was denied in all other respects and the agreement was otherwise allowed to stand.

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

Source of Image:  Photo by Nick Fewings on

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