In reviewing whether a claim-preclusion doctrine bars an action, a federal court must apply the forum state's res judicata principles, which bar all claims that were actually litigated or could have been litigated in the first suit between the same parties. In Tennessee, four elements must be established before res judicata can be asserted as a defense: (1) the underlying judgment must have been rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction; (2) the same parties or their privies were involved in both suits; (3) the same cause of action was involved in both suits; and (4) the underlying judgment was on the merits.
After the landowner purchased a duplex at a delinquent tax sale, city employees, erroneously believing that it still belonged to the previous owner, seized and demolished it and sued the landowner in state court to recover their costs. After the landowner appealed the damage award, his counsel executed an agreement with the city settling his claims. The landowner sued to vacate the agreement. While appeal of that suit was pending, the landowner filed the instant civil rights action; the district court dismissed the taking claims as unripe due to the pending state court suit and dismissed the remaining claims as time-barred. On appeal, the court found that the landowner's taking claims were ripe because the appeal was completed. However, these claims were barred under Tennessee's res judicata principles. Further, the landowner's constitutional claims were time-barred since they accrued upon the demolition of the property. Similarly, his conspiracy claim was time-barred, and his remaining claims were dismissed because his allegation of a conspiracy to discriminate against him were too conclusory and vague to state a cognizable claim for relief. Appellant landowner sought review of a decision of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.
Was Brown's taking claim barred by claim preclusion?
Brown expressly raised a Fourteenth Amendment just-compensation claim in the state court. The state courts concluded that MGNDC officials had wrongfully taken his property but that they had paid him just compensation for it.