Law School Case Brief
Painter v. Harvey - 863 F.2d 329
Where the same evidence will support or refute both the claim and counterclaim, the counterclaim will almost always be compulsory. The same evidence test thus accomplishes the purposes of Fed. R. Civ. P. 13(a), because the very purpose of making certain types of counterclaims compulsory is to prevent the relitigation of the same set of facts.
In a 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 action, plaintiff alleged that defendant police officer raped her during her arrest. Defendant counterclaimed that plaintiff defamed him by filing a fabricated complaint about her arrest and distributing it to the media. The jury found for defendant. The lower court denied defendant's motion for attorney's fees and refused to dismiss the counterclaim, holding that it was compulsory because it involved substantially the same proof as plaintiff's claim that defendant violated her constitutional rights during her arrest for drunk driving. Plaintiff appealed the decision of the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia.
Was the defendant's counterclaim compulsory because it involved substantially the same evidence as plaintiff's claim?
The court affirmed the lower court's refusal to dismiss defendant officer's counterclaim that plaintiff defamed him by filing and distributing a fabricated constitutional civil rights complaint about her arrest because it arose from the same transaction as plaintiff's claim, and therefore, it was compulsory. The court found plaintiff's arguments that the counterclaim was permissive unpersuasive. For example, the court rejected her argument that the counterclaim should be found permissive because her claim involved federal law and the counterclaim involved state law, finding that the counterclaim was properly adjudicated as a matter of ancillary jurisdiction because it arose from the same transaction as plaintiff's claim. Further, the counterclaim's status could not depend on whether issue was joined only by an affirmative defense to it. Accordingly, the court affirmed the lower court's refusal to dismiss and, finding no abuse of discretion, affirmed the denial of attorney's fees.
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