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GULAK v. YU

February 10, 1969

Henrietta GULAK and Nathan Gulak
v.
Francis YU



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MASTERSON

 Defendant has moved that this Court amend its Memorandum and Order of December 31, 1968 *fn1" to state that the case involves a controlling question of law as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion, and that an immediate appeal from the order may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation. Title 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). For reasons discussed hereafter, this motion is denied.

 The Court has utilized the opportunity presented by this motion to restudy its earlier decision. Upon re-examination, it has concluded that, though the result reached in the prior Memorandum and Order was correct, the summary remarks therein warrant amplification for the dual purpose of providing guidance as to the legal issues involved, and explaining further the Court's reasoning in denying the defendant's earlier motion.

 I. SUMMARY OF FACTS

 The facts with which this suit and the motions under consideration deal are as follows: An automobile allegedly driven in a negligent fashion by the defendant, Francis Yu, collided with one driven by Mrs. Gulak on June 5, 1964. *fn2" Gary and Dena Gulak, plaintiffs' minor children, were passengers in the Gulak vehicle when this incident occurred and they sustained slight injuries, for the treatment of which, Mr. and Mrs. Gulak paid $50.00. Mrs. Gulak sustained injuries sufficiently severe to require orthopedic surgery.

 On September 2, 1965, this suit was filed in the United States District Court with jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship. Title 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) *fn3" In this action Mr. and Mrs. Gulak seek compensation for their losses as a result of Mrs. Gulak's injury.

  A second suit was filed in the County Court of Philadelphia. *fn4" Recovery was there sought for the injuries to the minor children and the parents' resulting expense for their children's medical treatment. On December 6, 1966, an Arbitration Panel awarded $100.00 for the physical injury of each child, and awarded the parents $50.00 for the children's medical treatment. *fn5" This judgment was subsequently marked Satisfied.

 As was noted in the Memorandum and Order, counsel for the defendant agreed during the Pre-trial Conference that no claim regarding Mrs. Gulak's injuries was presented to the County Court Arbitration Panel, nor was any evidence introduced regarding the nature and extent of her injury.

 II. APPLICABILITY OF THE RULE AGAINST SPLITTING CAUSES OF ACTION AND THE DOCTRINE OF RES JUDICATA

 The defendant argues that he is entitled to Summary Judgment because the rule against splitting causes of action precludes Mr. and Mrs. Gulak's claim for her injury after she and her husband had sued in the County Court and had recovered in their own right in the County Court what they had spent on their children's medical treatment. It is contended that this constituted a receipt of part of their damages from a single negligent act, and that therefore all further claims regarding Mrs. Gulak's injury have been merged in the judgment of the County Court.

 In support of this view, the defendant cites Pennsylvania cases determining whether one, or several, separate causes of action arose under a given set of facts, for the purpose of applying the rule against splitting causes. Fields v. Philadelphia Rapid Transit Co., 273 Pa. 282, 117 A. 59 (1922); Simodejka v. Williams, 360 Pa. 332, 62 A.2d 17 (1948); Fisher v. Hill, 368 Pa. 53, 81 A.2d 860 (1951); Spinelli v. Maxwell, 430 Pa. 478, 243 A.2d 425 (1968).

 We have concluded that these cases are not dispositive for several reasons.

 First, we deal with a factual setting in which the claims have been confused because of the family ties among the persons injured. So far, as Mr. and Mrs. Gulak were concerned, the claims for the children's medical expenses, which are the focus of the controversy, were derivative in nature. They did not arise out of any direct relationship between the parents and the alleged tortfeasor, but from the family relationship which caused the parents to provide, and pay for, their children's medical treatment in fulfillment of their parental duties. *fn6" Under these circumstances we are well beyond the question to which the Pennsylvania cases relate, namely, how many causes of action arose as a result of a defendant's negligent act. Where two or more persons sustain physical injuries by the same wrongful act, separate and distinct causes of action accrue, on which separate suits may be brought.

 Secondly, in none of the Pennsylvania cases, upon which the defendant chiefly relies, was it necessary to consider the inter-relationship between courts in the separate federal and state judicial structures. Whenever this Court decides cases in which jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship, there is a duty to accommodate interests of federal and state policy in light of the facts and legal issues presented by the individual case. In the instant case, separate suits were filed in the federal and state courts because the claims of the children were not in excess of $10,000.00 as required by the relevant federal jurisdictional statute. Title 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Mr. and Mrs. Gulak exercised the option secured by Article III of the United States Constitution, as implemented by Congress in § 1332(a), to have a federal determination of their claims ...


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