Roland F. Hall

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In Lackey v. McDowell, the Supreme Court of Georgia modified *its previous decisions on the effect of a release on non-parties to the release. In reversing the court of appeals, the court held that "only those parties named in the release will be discharged by that instrument." Previous decisions required that parties to a release had to intend to discharge the non-party seeking coverage under the release.

For plaintiffs attempting to release only one of several tortfeasors, the effect of releases on non-parties is a critical issue, especially since standard release forms commonly contain language purporting to discharge all potentially liable persons. The court's holding that releases discharge only persons named in the release allows lower courts to disregard the intent of the parties and promises to eliminate the litigation created by the previous intention standard. However, the new Lackey standard does not provide absolute certainty, and plaintiffs might still be able to unintentionally discharge tortfeasors unnamed in the release.

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