One of Several Joint Debtors, Creditors, or Tortfeasors

Generally, a debtor is bound to pay his debt personally, and all the estate he possesses or may acquire, is also liable for his debt.  Debtors may be joint or several.  They are joint when they all equally owe the debt.  They are several when each promises severally to pay the whole debt.

A tortfeasor is a person who commits a tort.  If the court determines that the defendant’s tort has caused the plaintiff to suffer loss or harm, then the defendant is deemed legally responsible to compensate the plaintiff.  There may also be cases wherein more than one tortfeasor may be involved in contributing to a tort.  Joint tortfeasors are responsible for the same wrongful act which results in a tort.

Generally, an accord and satisfaction agreement between a creditor and a debtor will discharge all other jointly and severally liable debtors from further liability on the claim.[i]

Therefore, in the case of 1629 Joint Venture v. Dahlquist, it was observed that where directors of a dissolved corporation were jointly and severally liable for breach of a lease, satisfaction of the judgment against one of the directors who voted to distribute the corporation’s assets in liquidation without providing for the payment of the lease installments discharged the obligation against the other directors who also voted for the distribution.

As in cases wherein an accord and satisfaction agreement between a creditor and a debtor will discharge all other jointly and severally liable debtors from further liability on the claim, likewise, each of several joint creditors has power to discharge the entire claim by an accord and satisfaction.[ii]

In the case of Slusher v. Jack Roach Cadillac, Inc., it was observed that in case of a husband and wife who were joint purchasers of a car and who brought an action for damages for fraud against the car dealer, each had an interest in the entire claim sued upon and therefore each had the power to discharge the dealer’s obligation by accord and satisfaction.

As a general rule, an accord and satisfaction between a person injured and one of several cotortfeasors responsible for the injury will discharge the other tortfeasors from further liability to the person injured.[iii]  However, if an injured party receives a part of damages from one co-tortfeasor, and receipt of that part is not understood to constitute a full satisfaction of the injury, the injured party does not thereby discharge the others from liability.[iv]  The latter transaction is in the nature of a release, reserving the right to sue the other tortfeasors, or a covenant or agreement not to sue the tortfeasor from whom the partial satisfaction was received.[v]

[i] Collection Professionals, Inc. v. Logan, 296 Ill. App. 3d 959, 231 Ill. Dec. 225, 695 N.E.2d 1344 (3d Dist. 1998)

[ii] Forbes v. First Camden Nat. Bank & Trust Co., 25 N.J. Super. 17, 95 A.2d 416 (App. Div. 1953); Singer v. Ritter, 167 Pa. Super. 154, 74 A.2d 520 (1950); Bede v. Tondre, 86 R.I. 92, 134 A.2d 122 (1957)

[iii] Wallner v. Chicago Consol. Traction Co., 245 Ill. 148, 91 N.E. 1053 (1910); Arrowood v. McMinn County, 173 Tenn. 562, 121 S.W.2d 566, 119 A.L.R. 855 (1938); First & Merchants Nat. Bank of Richmond v. Bank of Waverly, 170 Va. 496, 197 S.E. 462, 116 A.L.R. 1156 (1938)

[iv] Luxenburg v. Can-Tex Industries, 257 N.W.2d 804 (Minn. 1977)

[v] Hicklin v. Anders, 201 Or. 128, 253 P.2d 897 (1953); City of Coleman v. Kenley, 168 S.W.2d 926 (Tex. Civ. App. Eastland 1943)