re·lease / riˈlēs/ • v. [tr.] 1. allow or enable to escape from confinement; set free: the government announced that the prisoners would be released. ∎ remove restrictions or obligations from (someone or something) so that they become available for other activity: the strategy would release forces for service in other areas. ∎ allow (information) to be generally available: no details about the contents of the talks were released. ∎ make (a movie or recording) available for general viewing or purchase: nine singles and one album had been released. ∎ allow (something concentrated in a small area) to spread and work freely: growth hormone is released into the blood during the first part of sleep. ∎ remove (part of a machine or appliance) from a fixed position, allowing something else to move or function: he released the handbrake. ∎ allow (something) to return to its resting position by ceasing to put pressure on it: press the cap down and release. 2. Law remit or discharge (a debt). ∎ surrender (a right). ∎ make over (property or money) to another person or entity. • n. 1. the action or process of releasing or being released: a campaign by the prisoner's mother resulted in his release. ∎ the action of making a movie, recording, or other product available for general viewing or purchase: the film was withheld for two years before its release. ∎ a movie or other product issued for viewing or purchase: his current album release has topped the charts for six months. ∎ a press release. ∎ a handle or catch that releases part of a mechanism. 2. Law the action of releasing property, money, or a right to another. ∎ a document effecting this. DERIVATIVES: re·leas·a·ble adj. re·leas·ee / riˌlēˈsē/ n. ( Law ). re·leas·er / riˈlēsər/ n. re·leas·or / riˈlēsər/ n. ( Law ).
A contractual agreement by which one individual assents to relinquish a claim or right under the law to another individual against whom such claim or right is enforceable.
The right or claim given up in a release ordinarily involves contracts or torts. A general release encompasses all claims that are in existence between the parties and are within their contemplation when the release is executed. A specific release is generally limited to the particular claims specified therein.
No particular form or language is required for a release, provided the contract is complete and clearly indicates the releasor's intention. In the absence of a specific statutory provision, releases need not be in writing.
In order for it to take effect, a release must be supported by adequate consideration. Provided something of value is received, the consideration will be deemed adequate. The consideration can take various forms—such as payment to an employee for time lost due to an injury, in exchange for a release of the employee's damage claim; or repossession of a particular item in exchange for the release or discharge of a debt.
Since it is a contract, a release is subject to the same validity requirements as a contract. A voluntary release that is obtained in exchange for valuable consideration from an individual who is capable of totally understanding its legal effect is valid. An individual who signs a release has the obligation to read its contents prior to executing it; the person cannot have the release set aside because he or she has not become familiar with its contents. A release is not void merely because the bargain was unwise.
In situations where a release has been executed as a result of a mutual mistake that significantly affects the parties' rights, it can be set aside. In order to ascertain whether a release was executed under mutual mistake, all of the circumstances regarding the signing of the release must be taken into consideration, including the sum paid for release and whether the issue of liability was in dispute at the time the settlement was made.
An innocent misrepresentation that is relied upon by the releasor justifies setting aside a release induced by it. For example, by relying on a medical diagnosis for an injury sustained, an individual might sign a release in exchange for a particular sum of money. If, subsequently, the individual discovers that the injury is more serious than was indicated by the initial diagnosis, the release can be set aside, since the claims were released based on misrepresentation.
Fraudulent representations made by the releasee and relied on by the individual who gives up the claim for injury will also invalidate a release.
Under the common law, when an individual who had been injured by the wrongful acts of two or more persons acting in concert—known as joint tortfeasors—executed a release to one of the defendants, the releasor was regarded as having relinquished the claim against all the defendants, unless rights against them were clearly and specifically reserved in the release.
This rule proved to be unfair, however, because it forced the injured party to give up an entire claim against all tortfeasors without necessarily being totally compensated. Few jurisdictions still apply this rule. Most states currently permit a plaintiff to continue an action against the remaining joint tortfeasors after one of them has been released from liability unless the plaintiff has made an intentional surrender of the claim or has been totally compensated. An agreement of this type is called a covenant not to sue—the plaintiff does not give up the lawsuit but agrees not to enforce the claim against a particular joint tortfeasor although the others are still liable.
A. †revoke, cancel XIII; †relieve; remit (now leg.); give up, surrender XIV;
B. set free XIV. ME. reles(s)e — OF. relesser, relaiss(i)er :- L. relaxāre RELAX.
So sb. freeing, deliverance XIV; (leg.) conveyance of an estate XV. — OF. reles.