Civil Liability: Settlement

In Glover v. Tacoma General Hospital the Washington Supreme Court addressed issues of first impression concerning RCW 4.22 et. seq [hereinafter the Tort Reform Act]. The court held that pursuant to RCW 4.22.060(2) a determination by the trial court that a settlement was reasonable acted to extinguish the statutory right of contribution between the non-settling defendant and the settling defendants. This conclusion was based upon the presence of substantial evidence supporting the reasonableness of the settlement in view of the surrounding claims. Because the legislature expressly deferred to the courts for the establishment of criteria upon which to base such a finding, the Glover court has now established parameters within which RCW 4.22.060 is to operate.

Glover arose from the treatment of Jimmie Lee Cobb4 at Tacoma General Hospital. On April 25, 1979 Ms. Cobb was admitted to the hospital for surgery. During the administration of anesthesia she became hypotensive, lapsed into a coma and eventually suffered irreversible brain damage. Catherine Glover, appointed guardian ad litem, elected to sue based upon a theory of medical malpractice, naming Tacoma General and five others as defendants in the suit. After extensive discovery and presumably pre trial motions, the plaintiff agreed to settle with defendants Cowgill, Backup, University of Washington Hospital, the State of Washington, and Tacoma Anesthesia Associates for the sum of $575,000. These parties then entered into a settlement agreement. Pursuant to RCW 4.22.060(1) the plaintiff petitioned for a hearing to determine the reasonableness of the settlement. The court entered an order which dismissed the five settling defendants with prejudice while retaining the plaintiff’s cause of action against Tacoma General Hospital.

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Stanley M. Schwartz, Civil Liability: Settlement, 19 Gonz. L. Rev. 403 (1983).

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