Releases are customarily signed at the end of litigation by the parties. The courts sometimes are called upon to interpret the breadth of the releases signed. The following are some principles the courts will consider in interpreting a signed release:
(a) One looks first to the language of a release to find its meaning;
(b) Parties may use language that releases every claim that arises, including unknown claims. However, courts will require clear language to infer that a party intended to release claims of which it was unaware;
(c) General language in a release will be limited to the thing or things that were specially in the contemplation of the parties when the release was given;
(d) When a release is given as part of the settlement of a claim, the parties want to wipe the slate clean between them;
(e) One can look at the circumstances surrounding the giving of a release to determine what was specially in the contemplation of the parties*
William Poulos, Barrister
* This blog is not a substitute for legal advice. Should you require legal advice, a lawyer should be consulted to advise on the specific circumstances of your case.