Wattsv.Federal Express Corporation

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern DivisionJan 29, 2002
Case No. 1:01 cv 143 (W.D. Mich. Jan. 29, 2002)

Case No. 1:01 cv 143

January 29, 2002


MEMORANDUM OPINION


McKEAGUE, Judge

This is plaintiffs second employment discrimination action against her former employer, Federal Express Corporation. Plaintiffs first lawsuit was a Title VII action asserting that defendant's termination of plaintiffs employment on January 26, 1998 was the result of unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, sex and retaliation for prior EEO activity See Watts v. Federal Express Corp., 1:99cv701 (W.D. Mich.). The court entered judgment in favor of defendant on July 24, 2001. That judgment is now on appeal.

In this lawsuit, plaintiff again seeks to assert claims arising from her discharge from employment on January 26, 1998. Instead of asserting a Title VII claim, plaintiff now claims that defendant's actions constituted race discrimination and retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and wrongful employment termination and negligence under state law. Defendant has moved for summary judgment on the basis of res judicata or claim preclusion stemming from the court's judgment in plaintiffs prior lawsuit (docket # 67). Plaintiff has filed a response to defendant's motion devoid of any supporting legal authority. (docket # 91). Upon review, the court finds that its prior judgment bars the claims plaintiff asserts in this lawsuit. Accordingly, defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted.

Discussion

Defendant argues that this court's prior judgment bars plaintiffs claims. "The doctrine of res judicata, or claim preclusion, provides that a final judgment on the merits of an action precludes the parties or their privies from relitigating issues that were or could have been raised in the prior action." Rivers v. Barberton Bd. of Educ., 143 F.3d 1029, 1031 (6th Cir. 1998). Federal claim preclusion stemming from a final judgment precludes not only relitigation issues that were raised, but also theories of recovery that could have been litigated. See J.Z.G. Resources, Inc. v. Shelby Ins. Co., 84 F.3d 211, 214 (6th Cir. 1996); see also Taylor v. United States Gov't, No. 00-2311, 2001 WL 1298959, at *1 (6th Cir. Aug. 7, 2001); Armour v. McCalla, No. 00-6670, 2001 WL 669999, at *1 (6th Cir. June 7, 2001).

The elements of federal claim preclusion are well established: (1) a final decision on the merits by a court of competent jurisdiction; (2) a subsequent action between the same parties of their privies; (3) an issue in the subsequent action which was litigated or should have been litigated in the prior action; and (4) an identity of the causes of action. Rivers, 143 F.3d at 103 see Bittinger v. Tecumseh Prods Co., 123 F.3d 877, 880 (6th Cir. 1997).

The court's prior judgment is clearly a judgment on the merits for purposes of claim preclusion. See Rivers, 143 F.3d at 1032; see also Spann v. Detroit Bd. of Ed., No. 99-1107, 2000 WL 1359626, at *2 (6th Cir. Sept. 14, 2000); cf. Federated Dep't Stores, Inc. v. Moitie, 452 U.S. 394, 399 n. 3 (1981) (finding that a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal for failure to state a claim was a decision. on the merits). The pending appeal does not rob the judgment of its finality. See Smith v. SEC, 129 F.3d 356, 362 n. 7 (6th Cir. 1997) ( en banc); Erebia v. Chrysler Plastic Prod Corp., 891 F.2d 1212, 1215 n. 1 (6th Cir. 1989). The prior judgment involved the same parties and all the issues raised in this lawsuit were or should have been litigated in the prior action. The court dismissed plaintiffs Title VII claim for her failure to establish a prima facie case under the McDonnell Douglas test. Section 1981 prohibits racial discrimination in the making and enforcing of private contracts and "[s]ection 1981 claims are analyzed under the Title VI McDonnell Douglas/Burdine framework." Newman v. Federal Express Corp., 266 F.3d 401, 406 (6th Cir. 2001). Finally, the causes of action are identical, as all of plaintiffs claims in those cases arise from her termination from employment. See Sanders Confectionary Prods., Inc. v. Heller Financial, Inc., 973 F.2d 474, 484 (6th Cir. 1992) ("Identity of causes of action means an identity of the facts creating the cause of action and evidence necessary to sustain each action."). It is patent that claim preclusion bars the present lawsuit.

The law does not allow plaintiff the luxury of bringings seriatim lawsuits based on the very same acts and omissions. She could have, and should have, joined her section 1981 and statelaw claims for wrongful discharge with her original Title VII claim. The judgment in the previous action bars litigation of plaintiffs present legal theories. Defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted.

JUDGMENT

In accordance with the memorandum opinion filed this date:

IT IS ORDERED that defendant's motion for summary judgment (docket # 67) is GRANTED, and judgment is hereby entered in favor of defendant. Defendant may tax its costs.