Case Law Alerts
A jury should decide whether injured plaintiffs who spoke no English were “railroaded” by an adjuster into signing a release.
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania reversed a trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of a tortfeasor when it determined that a jury should decide if a release signed by the injured plaintiffs should be voided. The plaintiffs alleged that prior to the litigation, despite knowing the plaintiffs did not speak English, an insurance adjuster arrived at their home without an interpreter with a release and a check and induced them to sign the release. The trial court determined that the release was valid because, while the plaintiffs did not speak English, their daughter, who did speak English, was present during the adjuster’s visit and took notes. The Superior Court disagreed and determined that the plaintiffs presented factual issues to be resolved by a jury, specifically: whether the plaintiffs had enough capacity to understand the document they were signing and whether their daughter was actually present during the signing. As a practical matter, adjusters and attorneys working for insurers should be cautious when obtaining releases from unrepresented parties who do not speak English. To avoid having the release determined to be void or procured by fraud, a neutral interpreter may be recommended.
Case Law Alerts, 1st Quarter, January 2017. Case Law Alerts is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific situation or to create an attorney-client relationship. Copyright © 2017 Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, all rights reserved. This article may not be reprinted without the express written permission of our firm.