Estoppels abound

Maybaum v Maybaum, 2011 NY Slip Op 07816 (2nd Dept., 3011)

The Supreme Court erred in granting that branch of the plaintiff's motion which was to strike stated paragraphs of the defendant's counterclaim on the grounds of res judicata, collateral estoppel, and equitable estoppel. The allegations in the defendant's counterclaim for a divorce on the ground of cruel and inhuman treatment, and the allegations in the plaintiff's family offense petition, did not arise out of the same transaction or series of transactions. "It is not always clear whether particular claims are part of the same transaction for res judicata purposes. A pragmatic' test has been applied to make this determination—analyzing whether the facts are related in time, space, origin, or motivation, whether they form a convenient trial unit, and whether their treatment as a unit conforms to the parties' expectations or business understanding or usage'" (Xiao Yang Chen v Fischer, 6 NY3d 94, 100-101, quoting Restatement [Second] of Judgments § 24[2]; see Smith v Russell Sage Coll., 54 NY2d 185, 192-193). Applying this test, we conclude that the family offense petition and counterclaim for a divorce on the ground of cruel and inhuman treatment do not form a convenient trial unit. Thus, the defendant is not precluded from litigating her counterclaim for a divorce on the ground of cruel and inhuman treatment in the separate action in the Supreme Court. 

"Collateral estoppel, or issue preclusion, precludes a party from relitigating in a subsequent action or proceeding an issue clearly raised in a prior action or proceeding and decided against that party . . . , whether or not the tribunals or causes of action are the same'" (Parker v Blauvelt Volunteer Fire Co., 93 NY2d 343, 349, quoting Ryan v New York Tel. Co., 62 NY2d 494, 500). "The doctrine applies if the issue in the second action is identical to an issue which was raised, necessarily decided and material in the first action, and the plaintiff had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the earlier action" (Parker v Blauvelt Volunteer Fire Co., 93 NY2d at 349). "[C]ollateral estoppel effect will only be given to matters actually litigated and determined in a prior action" (Kaufman v Eli Lilly & Co., 65 NY2d 449, 456 [internal quotation marks omitted]). "An issue is not actually litigated if, for example, there has been a default, a confession of liability, a failure to place a matter in issue by proper pleading or even because of a stipulation" (id. at 456-457). Here, the issue of whether the plaintiff committed certain acts against the defendant was never determined in the Family Court proceeding, and the defendant's participation in the stipulation to withdraw her family offense petition, with prejudice, cannot be construed to be the kind of determination following a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issues that would be necessary to collaterally estop the defendant from establishing that the plaintiff committed the alleged acts (see North Shore-Long Is. Jewish Health Sys., Inc. v Aetna US Healthcare, Inc., 27 AD3d 439, 440-441; Singleton Mgt. v Compere, 243 AD2d 213, 216-218).

Further, "[t]he circumstances set forth by plaintiff simply do not rise to a level of unconscionability warranting application of equitable estoppel" (American Bartenders School v 105 Madison Co., 59 NY2d 716, 718; see Geller v Reuben Gittelman Hebrew Day School, 34 AD3d 730, 731-732).

Since the doctrines of res judicata, collateral estoppel, and equitable estoppel do not preclude the defendant from litigating certain of the allegations in her counterclaim that were alleged in her family offense petition, the Supreme Court should have granted that branch of the defendant's cross motion which was pursuant to CPLR 3211(b) to dismiss the plaintiff's fourth affirmative defense alleging that the defendant's counterclaim was barred in whole or in part by the doctrines of res judicata, collateral estoppel, and equitable estoppel, as that defense has no merit.

The Supreme Court further erred in granting that branch of the plaintiff's motion which was to strike stated paragraphs of the defendant's counterclaim, in effect, as time-barred on the ground they alleged acts occurring more than five years prior to the commencement of the action. The allegations in the counterclaim relating to incidents occurring more than five years before the commencement of the action may be properly included to the extent that those allegations may be relevant to an evaluation of a party's claim for a divorce on the ground of cruel and inhuman treatment in the context of the entire marriage (see Vestal v Vestal, 273 AD2d 461, 462; Miglio v Miglio, 147 AD2d 460, 460-461). Further, the Supreme Court erred in granting that branch of the plaintiff's motion which was pursuant to CPLR 3016(c) to strike stated paragraphs in the counterclaim for lack of specificity and thereupon directing the defendant to serve and file an amended counterclaim. The "allegations sufficiently apprised the [plaintiff] of the accusations against him so as to enable him to prepare a defense" (Nolletti v Nolletti, 2 AD3d 421, 422; see Kapchan v Kapchan, 104 AD2d 358; Pfeil v Pfeil, 100 AD2d 725). Therefore, the Supreme Court also should have granted that branch of the defendant's cross motion which was pursuant to CPLR 3211(b) to dismiss the plaintiff's third affirmative defense alleging that the counterclaim was insufficiently specific to meet the requirements of CPLR 3016(c).

Farren v Lisogorsky, 2011 NY Slip Op 06366 (2nd Dept., 2011)

Prior to answering, the defendant moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(5) and (7), for summary judgment dismissing the complaint, and for an award of sanctions. The Supreme Court, inter alia, granted that branch of the motion which was to dismiss the complaint pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(5), holding that the doctrine of res judicata precluded the instant action. We reverse the order insofar as appealed from. 

" [T]he general doctrine of res judicata gives binding effect to the judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction and prevents the parties to an action, and those in privity with them, from subsequently relitigating any questions that were necessarily decided therein'" (Landau, P.C. v LaRossa, Mitchell, & Ross, 11 NY3d 8, 13, quoting Matter of Grainger [Shea Enters.], 309 NY 605, 616). Although the doctrine of res judicata may be invoked where there is either a final judgment in an action between the parties, or a stipulation of settlement withdrawing a complaint or cause of action with prejudice (see Liberty Assoc. v Etkin, 69 AD3d 681, 682-683), to establish "privity" of the kind required for the application of res judicata, the party raising a res judicata defense must demonstrate a connection between the party to be precluded and a party to the prior action "such that the interests of the nonparty can be said to have been represented in the prior proceeding" (Green v Santa Fe Indus., 70 NY2d 244, 253).

The doctrine of res judicata is inapplicable to the instant action, as the plaintiffs never asserted any claim against the defendant in his capacity as an employee of Metropolitan, and seek here to hold him liable solely in his professional capacity as a pharmacist (see City of New York v Welsbach Elec. Corp., 9 NY3d 124, 127-128; Pawling Lake Prop. Owners Assn., Inc. v Greiner, 72 AD3d 665). The fact that the plaintiffs sued one tortfeasor, Metropolitan, does not automatically preclude them from suing another tortfeasor, such as the defendant herein, in a subsequent action (see Seaman v Fichet-Bauche N. Am., 176 AD2d 793, 794). In addition, the defendant inaptly sought to invoke res judicata against the plaintiffs based on his alleged privity with Metropolitan. Since there was an insufficient basis upon which to conclude that the defendant was in privity with Metropolitan, the Supreme Court incorrectly granted that branch of the defendant's motion which was pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(5) to dismiss the complaint based on the doctrine of res judicata.

Uzamere v Senator Ehigie Edobor Uzamere, 2011 NY Slip Op 08583 (2nd Dept., 2011)

The Supreme Court properly directed dismissal of the complaint based on the doctrine of res judicata. The plaintiff previously commenced two prior federal court actions, one in the Eastern District of New York (hereinafter the Eastern District action) and one in the Southern District of New York based on the same alleged facts that form the basis of the complaint herein. In light of authority stating that a court should apply the rules of res judicata followed in the jurisdiction that rendered the earlier court decision (see Insurance Co. of State of Pa. v HSBC Bank USA, 10 NY3d 32, 38 n 3, citing Marrese v American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 470 US 373, 380-381; Langerman v Langerman, 303 NY 465, 474; Restatement [Second] of Conflict of Laws § 95, Comment[e]), we apply federal res judicata law in determining whether the doctrine of res judicata bars this action.

"In federal court, subsequent litigation is prohibited if a prior court ruling was (1) a final judgment on the merits, (2) by a court of competent jurisdiction, (3) in a case involving the same parties or their privies, and (4) involving the same cause of action'" (Insurance Co. of State of Pa. v HSBC Bank USA, 10 NY3d at 37, quoting EDP Med. Computer Sys., Inc. v United States, 480 F3d 621, 624).

Here, the Eastern District action resulted in a dismissal of the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, and that dismissal was a final adjudication on the merits by a court of competent jurisdiction (see Federated Department Stores, Inc. v Moitie, 452 US 394, 399 n 3; Angel v Bullington, 330 US 183, 190). Furthermore, the Eastern District action and this action involve the same parties or their privies (see Akhenaten v Najee, LLC, 544 F Supp 2d 320, 328-329), and involve the same cause of action. Specifically, the Eastern District complaint and the instant complaint arise out of the same "nucleus of operative facts" and, thus, the causes of action asserted in this litigation could have been asserted in the Eastern District action (Waldman v Village of Kiryas Joel, 207 F3d 105, 108). Moreover, under the circumstances of this case, it is not clear that the Eastern District would have, as a matter of discretion, declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the State law causes of action asserted herein (see Troy v Goord, 300 AD2d 1086; cf. McLearn v Cowen & Co., 48 NY2d 696, 698; Urlic v Insurance Co. of State of Penn., 259 AD2d 1, 4).

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