Res Judicata: Double Jeopardy's Civil-Lawsuit Cousin

When Cecil Addison was passed over for promotion, he sued Volvo Trucks North America and Ivan Mitchell in the Western District of Virginia for breach of contract and discrimination. Volvo Trucks had a contract agreement with the United Auto Workers Union. Addison alleged the defendants changed the contract's job requirements without Union approval so they could put a white male employee in the position for which Addison, a black male, was the most senior qualified employee. He also claimed that, when he complained, they retaliated by terminating his employment. Addison sought $25 million for the career he said they destroyed, and an additional $25 million for pain and suffering. But this wasn't the first time he filed a lawsuit like this.

Addison made substantially the same allegations, plus others, in an earlier suit he filed in the same court in 2009. In that case, he didn't communicate with the defendants for over five months, failed to appear at his own scheduled deposition and, when the magistrate judge ordered him to show cause why the case shouldn't be dismissed, failed to respond. So that case was dismissed.

The principle of res judicata (Latin for "a thing adjudicated") bars a party from filing a new lawsuit if that party has filed a prior suit on the same claim or on claims arising from the same transactions that could have been raised in that prior suit. The Supreme Court has acknowledged the important reasons for this doctrine, which include (1) preventing the cost and vexation of multiple lawsuits, (2) conserving judicial resources, and (3) preventing inconsistent judicial decisions so parties can rely on adjudications.

Read the rest of the article at the Virginia Business Litigation Lawyer blog.

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