Keeping the Pierringer Promise: Fair Settlements and Fair Trials

81 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2010

See all articles by Peter B. Knapp

Peter B. Knapp

Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Date Written: 1994


This article explores why Pierringer releases have failed to promise fairness to the nonsettling defendant. For over thirty years, Pierringer releases have been part of the ebb and flow of civil litigation. In 1978, the Minnesota Supreme Court officially approved the use of Pierringer releases in Minnesota. When first adopted, the release seemed to promise something for everyone. The Pierringer release even offered a promise of fairness to the nonsettling defendant: Be assured that, no matter what the outcome of trial, you will pay no more than your “fair share” of the verdict. Unfortunately, however, largely because of the impact Pierringer settlements have on litigation and trial, the this promise to the nonsettling defendant has too often failed to keep. Part II of this article reviews how the need for a release that permitted piecemeal settlements in comparative fault cases led to the development and adoption of Pierringer releases in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Part III explores two different sets of problems: first, the appellate definition and modification of how Pierringer settlements allocate fault; and second, how Pierringer releases can change the conduct of discovery and trial, and the impact these changes can have on the apportionment of fault. This second set of problems has received scant attention from the appellate courts, and Part IV discusses possible explanations for this. Finally, Part V proposes solutions to some of the problems Pierringer releases have created.

Keywords: Minnesota Torts, Torts, Personal Injury, Settlement, Comparative Fault, Piecemeal Settlement, Liability, Covenant Not To Sue, Partial Release, Mary Carter, Allocation of Fault

Suggested Citation

Knapp, Peter B., Keeping the Pierringer Promise: Fair Settlements and Fair Trials (1994). William Mitchell Law Review, Vol. 20, pp. 1-79, 994, William Mitchell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1994-01, Available at SSRN:

Peter B. Knapp (Contact Author)

Mitchell Hamline School of Law ( email )

875 Summit Ave
St. Paul, MN 55105-3076
United States

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