A general release of “unknown” claims through the effective date of the release does NOT bar “unaccrued” claims. This is especially important when it comes to fraud claims where the facts giving rise to the fraud may have occurred prior to the effective date in the release, but a party did not learn of the fraud until well after the effective date in the release. A recent opinion maintained that a general release that bars unknown claims does NOT mean a fraud claim will be barred since the last element to prove a fraud had not occurred, and thus, the fraud claim had not accrued until after the effective date in the release. See Falsetto v. Liss, Fla. L. Weekly D1340D (Fla. 3d DCA 2019) (“The 2014 [Settlement] Agreement’s plain language released the parties only from “known or unknown” claims, not future or unaccrued claims. Because there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the fraud claim had accrued — that is, whether Falsetto [party to Settlement Agreement] knew or through the exercise of due diligence should have known about the alleged fraud at the time the 2014 Agreement was executed — the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on those fraud claims.”).
Fair or unfair? In certain contexts, perhaps fair — such as when the facts giving rise to the fraud took place after the effective date of the release. In other contexts, perhaps unfair — such as when the facts giving rise to the fraud occurred prior to the effective date in the release but were unknown.
What are your thoughts? However, modifying a release to now include “unaccrued” claims may not be the answer as this could have broad implications relating to future claims, which a party may be cautious about releasing in light of current or future relations between the parties.
Please contact David Adelstein at firstname.lastname@example.org or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.