A man who received a $2.5 million confession of judgment from the employer of a driver who injured him can also move forward with his suit against the driver, a federal judge ruled April 13.
Curtis Dolford was injured Jan. 31, 2013, when a Mack dump truck crossed the center line on Highway 17 in Darlington County and crashed head-on into the Lincoln Sedan he was traveling in.
Dolford sued the driver, Adrian Shaw, and the owner of the truck and Shaw’s employer, Willard Locklear Trucking, Inc.
In Jan. 2015, Locklear filed a confession of judgment in federal court in Florence, assigning Dolford the right to pursue a bad-faith action against its insurer, National Casualty. In October 2016, Shaw — a North Carolina resident who had been located and served through the director of the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles — answered Dolford’s complaint by admitting liability. On Nov. 17, 2016, Shaw filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Dolford’s claims are barred by the doctrine of laches and Locklear’s confession of judgment.
The court disagreed, finding that the statute of limitations, not laches, applies to legal claims as opposed to equitable ones, and that Dolford timely commenced his negligence action.
It also rejected Shaw’s claim that the suit was barred because Dolford accepted Locklear’s right to pursue a bad-faith action against National Casualty and was therefore completely satisfied for his damages.
The court relied on the 1971 South Carolina Supreme Court ruling in Bartholomew v. McCartha, which adopted the view that releasing one tortfeasor does not release others unless the parties intended to do so or the plaintiff has “received full compensation amounting to satisfaction.”
Similar wording is found in the state’s Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act, which District Judge R. Bryan Harwell wrote codifies and mirrors Bartholomew. According to the Act, a release or covenant not to sue “given in good faith to one or more persons liable in tort for the same injury,” does not discharge any of the other tortfeasors from liability, but reduces the claim “to the extent of any amount stipulated by the release or the covenant, or in the amount of the consideration paid for it, whichever is greater.”
Harwell wrote that there is no evidence that Locklear intended to release Shaw in its covenant. In fact, the covenant states that it shall not affect “Plaintiff’s right … to seek recovery from any other persons or entities.”
Also lacking, the court held, is any evidence that the plaintiff has been fully compensated to satisfaction. The plain terms of the covenant, Harwell wrote, “contemplate satisfaction of the judgment against only Locklear Trucking and only when the bad faith lawsuit is ‘resolved, dismissed or a final judgment’ entered.”
“There is no indication whether Plaintiff has actually filed the bad faith lawsuit, much less whether that suit has been resolved, dismissed, or had final judgment entered,” Harwell wrote.
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SETTLEMENT REPORT – NEGLIGENCE
Amount: $2.5 million and right to seek recovery from additional defendant
Case name: Benjamin as Guardian ad Litem for Curtis Dolford v. Adrian Shaw
Case No.: 4:15-CV-05110-RBH
Date of settlement: April 13
Attorneys for plaintiff: Roy Willey IV, Eric Poulin, and Matthew Nall of the Anastopoulo Law Firm in Charleston
Attorneys for defendant: Alexander Hogsette of Turner Padget Graham & Laney in Florence