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CHRYSLER CORP. v. E. L. JONES DODGE

October 21, 1976

CHRYSLER CORPORATION and CHRYSLER MOTORS CORPORATION, Plaintiffs
v.
E. L. JONES DODGE, INC., a Pennsylvania Corporation, Defendant. GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION, Plaintiff v. E. L. JONES DODGE, INC., a Pennsylvania Corporation, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SNYDER

 I. BACKGROUND.

 Chrysler Corporation and Chrysler Motors Corporation in one action and General Motors Corporation in another action sought preliminary injunctions against E. L. Jones Dodge, Inc. prohibiting proceeding with the prosecution of their joinder in an action in trespass as filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County.

 On January 27, 1972, Theodore C. Joseph was seriously injured when his 1972 Dodge Challenger collided with a bridge abutment on Route 56 Bypass in Richland Township, Cambria County, Pennsylvania. Joseph brought action in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, 61 F.R.D. 347 (C.A. 72-295 and 73-24, hereinafter federal actions) for personal injuries against Chrysler Corporation (manufacturer of the automobile) and General Motors Corporation (manufacturers of the power steering component). E. L. Jones Dodge, Inc. (hereinafter "Jones"), retailer and repairer of the vehicle, was joined as a third party defendant by General Motors for alleged negligence in the repair performed on the vehicle. Jones in turn joined Chrysler Motors Corporation as a fourth party defendant, alleging that either Chrysler or General Motors was solely liable to Joseph, or that Jones was entitled to indemnity or contribution. Joseph amended his complaint to assert a direct claim against Jones, which was dismissed for lack of complete diversity. There ensued 13 days of trial in the consolidated federal actions and the jury returned a special verdict answering only one of the interrogatories which was as follows:

 
"1. Was the Dodge Challenger car defective and unreasonably dangerous when it was sold by Chrysler Corporation to Chrysler Motors Corporation, and sold by Chrysler Motors Corporation to E. L. Jones Dodge, Inc. and sold by E. L. Jones Dodge, Inc., to Theodore C. Joseph on or about October 29, 1971?
 
Answer: No."

 Thereafter, judgments against Jones and in favor of all the defendants were entered. The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's refusal to grant a new trial on April 21, 1975. Joseph v. Chrysler Corporation, 513 F.2d 626 (3d Cir. 1975). One year prior to the trial of the consolidated federal actions, Joseph commenced an action against Jones in the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County where he resided. In his complaint to join General Motors as an additional defendant in the state action, Jones averred that General Motors was solely liable to the plaintiffs, or in the alternative that Jones was entitled to contribution or indemnity from General Motors. Jones also joined Chrysler Corporation and Chrysler Motors Corporation as additional defendants. After interposing a preliminary objection in the nature of a petition raising the pendency of the federal actions, General Motors in New Matter asserted the bar of the Federal Court judgment in its favor and thereafter filed a Motion for Summary Judgment predicated upon the Doctrine of Res Judicata and Collateral Estoppel. The Defendant Jones in its Reply to New Matter admitted the judgment in favor of General Motors in the federal actions and the averments of fact in General Motors' New Matter. Following briefing and oral argument, the Cambria County Court of Common Pleas denied the Motion for Summary Judgment by order without opinion. General Motors in accordance with Section 501 of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act of 1970, 17 P.S. § 211.501 (Supp. 1976), petitioned the Court to certify the order to the Superior Court as a case involving a controlling issue of law which would materially advance the ultimate determination of the matter. The petition was denied without opinion or disclosed reason.

 II. DISCUSSION.

 General Motors in this proceeding states it is indisputably entitled not to be required to defend in state court the precise claim which it successfully defended in federal court. Likewise, Chrysler states the joinder by the defendant of the plaintiffs herein, Chrysler, as additional defendants in the Cambria County action is a direct interference with the full force and effect of the judgments of this Court in that it is an attempt to again litigate the identical issues previously decided in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Jones says (p. 5, Defendant's Brief):

 
"nevertheless, only a single item was resolved [in the federal actions] and that was the condition of the car as not being defective or unreasonably dangerous at the time it came into the hands of the plaintiff Theodore Joseph.
 
No jury has answered the question of whether the car at any time between the dates of its delivery to Theodore Joseph and the accident on January 27, 1972, became defective or unreasonably dangerous, and, if it did, whether any of the named defendants are legally responsible for such defective and unreasonably dangerous condition."

 It is noted that the claim against Jones in the state court action was commenced prior to trial of the consolidated federal actions. The claim against Jones in the state court action is for the same personal injuries which formed the basis of the federal action. In its complaint to join General Motors and Chrysler as additional defendants in the state court action, Jones averred, precisely as it had done before, the sole liability of the manufacturer and retailer. Here again, Jones alleged defectiveness of the power steering component, a question which had been fully adjudicated in favor of General Motors and Chrysler and was embodied in the final judgment of this Court.

 Under 28 U.S.C. § 2283 (1965):

 
"A court of the United States may not grant an injunction to stay proceedings in a State court except as expressly authorized by Act of Congress, or where necessary in aid of its ...

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