Monday, April 21, 2014

Applying the doctrine of res judicata


Applying the doctrine of res judicata 
2014 NY Slip Op 02005, Appellate Division, Second Department

When the employee [Plaintiff] filed a lawsuit alleging that he had been the victim of unlawful discrimination, Supreme Court dismiss the complaint on the ground that the action was barred by the doctrine of res judicata.*

The Appellate Division affirmed the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Plaintiff was served with disciplinary pursuant to Civil Service Law §75, alleging various types of work-related misconduct, and he was suspended for 30 days without pay. After a hearing, an administrative law judge upheld several of the charges and recommended that the plaintiff be suspended for a period of 30 days, to be satisfied by the prehearing suspension he had already served.

While the disciplinary charges were pending, Plaintiff commenced an action in the Supreme Court alleging defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Supreme Court granted Plaintiff’s employer’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint, which order was affirmed by the Appellate Division in Bayer v City of New York, 60 AD3d 713.

Plaintiff subsequently filed another action in Supreme Court, this time alleging age discrimination and the creation of a hostile work environment in violation of Executive Law §296. Supreme Court granted Plaintiff’s employer’s motion to dismiss the complaint in the instant action on the ground that the action was barred by the doctrine of res judicata.

Explaining that "Under the doctrine of res judicata, a disposition on the merits bars litigation between the same parties, or those in privity with them, of a cause of action arising out of the same transaction or series of transactions as a cause of action that either was raised or could have been raised in the prior proceeding."

Further, said the court, "The fact that causes of action may be stated separately, invoke different legal theories, or seek different relief will not permit relitigation of claims," citing Pondview Corp. v Blatt, 95 AD3d 980.

The test applied to determine if an action is ripe for application of the doctrine of res judicata is a pragmatic one, involving an analysis of how the facts are related as to time, space, origin or motivation, whether they form a convenient trial unit and whether treating them as a unit conforms to the parties' expectations or business understanding. Further, to apply the doctrine there must have been a final judgment on the merits in the prior proceeding.

Finding that Plaintiff’s causes of action arose out of the same transaction or series of transactions as those raised in the initial action. Further, said the court, as Plaintiff commenced his second action, during the pendency of the first action, all of the causes of action asserted here could have been raised in the initial action.

The bottom line: The Appellate Division held that notwithstanding the fact that the causes of action and legal theories alleged in this action are different from those alleged in the initial action, and some of the defendants are different, the Supreme Court properly granted the employer's motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the instant action was barred by the Doctrine of res judicata.

* Applying the Doctrine of Res Judicata bars a claim that has either been litigated or that could have been litigated from being litigated again.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2014/2014_02005.htm
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Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

Challenging Adverse Personnel Decisions at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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