Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Pierringer Release Definition:

A proportionate share settlement agreement

Related Terms: Mary Carter Agreement, Release

Also known as Pierringer agreement or a Pierringer settlement.

Named after the case from which the form of release evolved, Pierringer v Hoger (1963, Justice Hallows of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin).

In Washington Mutual Bank, Justice John Tunheim of the United States District Court (Minnesota) wrote:

"Prior to the recognition of the Pierringer release, the common law rule in Minnesota was that a release of one joint tortfeasor required the release of all others. The Pierringer release allows a plaintiff to release settling defendants while preserving his cause of action against other joint tortfeasors. At the same time, by indemnifying a settling defendant against potential contribution from other tortfeasors, the plaintiff assures the settling defendant that its liability is limited to its proportionate fault only.

"The legal effect of the Pierringer release is that each tortfeasor pays only its proportionate share of liability, and no more, and, thus, there can be no liability for contribution. Thus, the settling tortfeasor is ordinarily dismissed with prejudice from the lawsuit, and all cross-claims for contribution between the settling defendant and the remaining defendants are likewise dismissed.

"The basic elements of a Pierringer release are (1) the release of the settling defendants from the action and the discharge of a part of the cause of action equal to that part attributable to the settling defendants' causal negligence; (2) the reservation of the remainder of plaintiffs causes of action against the nonsettling defendants; and (3) plaintiffs agreement to indemnify the settling defendants from any claims of contribution made by the nonsettling parties and to satisfy any judgment obtained from the nonsettling defendants to the extent the settling defendants have been released."

In Amoco Canada Petroleum v. Propak Systems, the reasons for judgment of Madam Justice Fruman of the Court of Appeal of Alberta included this:

"Pierringer ... agreements permit some parties to withdraw from the litigation, leaving the remaining defendants responsible only for the loss they actually caused, with no joint liability. As the non-settling defendants are responsible only for their proportionate share of the loss, a Pierringer agreement can properly be characterized as a proportionate share settlement agreement."

In Marble v Saskatchewan, Justice Baynton of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench added:

"Pierringer Agreements ... are a means of simplifying a complex lawsuit by permitting parties who desire to avoid the risks and costs of continued litigation to settle with the plaintiff and withdraw from the action. They require court approval. One of the factors the court must consider is the various kinds of prejudice that will be suffered by the defendants who remain in the litigation."

In 1997, Justice Hamilton of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench opined:

"Like a Mary Carter agreement, a Pierringer settlement is an agreement between the plaintiff and one of several joint tortfeasors. However, the contracting tortfeasor does not remain a party to the action. The key aspects of a Pierringer settlement are therefore: (a) segregation of the contracting defendant's liability; (b) satisfaction of the contracting defendant's liability to the credit of all parties to the litigation; (c) the plaintiff's ability to continue with the action against the remaining defendants; (d) the plaintiff's agreement that it will indemnify the contracting defendant for any contribution it pays to the other defendants and covenants to satisfy any judgment against the contracting defendant."1

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