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Duncan v. Cessna Aircraft Co.

Supreme Court of Texas

February 15, 1984

No. C-1343

Opinion

 [*417]  The opinion and judgment of the court delivered on July 13, 1983 are withdrawn, and the following is substituted.

Carolyn Parker Duncan, individually and on behalf of her minor children, brought this wrongful death action against Cessna Aircraft Company ("Cessna") for damages suffered when an airplane crash killed her husband, James Parker. 1 The jury returned a verdict of $1,000,000 for Duncan, but the trial court rendered judgment non obstante veredicto for Cessna. The court of appeals reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the cause for a partial new trial. 632 S.W.2d 375. We reverse the judgments of the court of appeals and the trial court and render judgment for Duncan on the jury verdict.

 [**2]  This case presents three questions. The first is whether Texas or New Mexico law controls the construction of a release executed by Duncan in favor of the owner of the airplane, Air Plains West, Inc. We hold that the release must be construed according to Texas law because Texas has the most significant relationship to this issue.

The second question is whether, under Texas law, the release discharged Cessna's liability to Duncan. We hold that Cessna was not discharged because it was not specifically identified in the release.

 [*418]  The final question before us is whether Cessna, a strictly liable manufacturer, is entitled to contribution from Smithson's estate based on proof that his pilot negligence caused the fatal crash. We hold that in products liability cases tried after the effective date of this opinion, a defendant may obtain a jury allocation of the plaintiff's damages according to the plaintiff's, defendants', and third parties' respective percentages of causation of those damages. We also hold, however, that Cessna did not preserve its claim for contribution against Smithson's estate.

I. BACKGROUND

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665 S.W.2d 414 *; 1984 Tex. LEXIS 317 **; 27 Tex. Sup. J. 213; CCH Prod. Liab. Rep. P9774

CAROLYN PARKER DUNCAN, Individually and as Administratrix, Petitioner v. CESSNA AIRCRAFT COMPANY, Respondent

Subsequent History:  [**1]  Rehearing Denied March 28, 1984.

Prior History:  From Travis County Third District.

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settlement, cases, causation, tortfeasors, comparative negligence, pleadings, trial court, counterclaim, damages, fault, strict liability, products, courts, crash, contributory negligence, dollar, plaintiffs', manufacturer, indemnity, policies, settling, parties, non-settling, injuries, misuse, comparative fault, defective product, apportionment, strict product liability, bill of exceptions

Torts, Procedural Matters, Settlements, General Overview, Multiple Party Settlements, Partial Settlements, Multiple Defendants, Contribution, Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act, Civil Procedure, Federal & State Interrelationships, Choice of Law, Forum & Place, Significant Relationships, Comparative Fault, Common Law Concepts, Assumption of Risk, Negligence, Defenses, Contributory Negligence, Products Liability, Theories of Liability, Breach of Warranty, Negligence, Plaintiff Conduct, Strict Liability, Commercial Law (UCC), Contract Provisions, Warranties, Procedural Matters, Intentional & Reckless Conduct, Strict Liability, Transportation Law, Private Vehicles, Safety Standards, Crashworthiness, Remedies, Damages, Reductions of Damages, Assumption of Risk, Elements, Causation, Distinct & Divisible Harms