Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiffs, five passengers injured in a two car accident (Plaintiffs), brought a negligence action against Defendants for an automobile accident. The Defendants were the drivers of the two cars and a contractor repairing the highway obstructing a stop sign (Defendants). Defendants moved to amend their answers to add the defense of discharge and satisfaction because Plaintiffs recovered a judgment against the state for the same injuries.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The defense of discharge and satisfaction provides that multiple judgments cannot be satisfied against multiple defendants for the same tort.
Issue. Is the defense of discharge and satisfaction applicable to prevent multiple judgments from being satisfied against different tortfeasors when one judgment has already been satisfied?
Held. Yes. Leave to amend granted to Defendants.
* Joint and several liability allows for one who has been injured by the joint wrong of several parties to recover against any or all of the parties. However, while there may be several suits and recoveries, there can only be one satisfaction. This is based on the fact that the consequences of the wrongful act are indivisible, limiting injured individuals to a single satisfaction.
* This court does not agree with Plaintiff’s argument that this rule is not applicable to a Court of Claims judgment. A New York Act provides that by waiving sovereign immunity, the state is in the same position as a private individual. Therefore, if the state and the Defendants are joint tortfeasors and the judgment has been satisfied by the state, the defense of discharge and satisfaction is applicable.
Discussion. The defense of discharge and satisfaction prevents double recovery from a single injury. While states are immune as sovereign at common law, states are free to waive this immunity and grant courts jurisdiction to determine claims against it.