The Common Law Release Rule Meets Its Demise In California

California Code of Civil Procedure Section 877 (CCP 877) modified what is commonly referred to as the common law release rule. Prior to 1957, that rule held that the release of one tortfeasor given by a plaintiff had the effect of releasing all tortfeasors from further liability. The rule was intended to prevent double recoveries and made sense in the days when each tortfeasor was held responsible for all harm done to a plaintiff. But in the age of comparative negligence, where liability is apportioned by percentage to each party based on their actions, the common law release is less relevant.

Thus CCP 877 states that a release or settlement with one or more tortfeasors in good faith does not discharge from liability other tortfeasors who are not named, though it does reduce the claims against them.

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