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RIDDLE v. AMTRAK

August 6, 1993

BARRY RIDDLE
v.
NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BY THE COURT; J. CURTIS JOYNER

 JOYNER, J.

 August 6, 1993

 The defendant, National Railroad Passenger Corporation, has filed a motion to dismiss the instant personal injury action pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons outlined in the following paragraphs, the motion is denied.

 I. Statement of Facts.

 On April 16, 1993, Plaintiff filed his civil action complaint in this case pursuant to the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 45 U.S.C. § 51, et. seq., alleging that he was, at all relevant times, employed as a maintenance manager by the National Railroad Passenger Corporation ("Amtrak") working out of Amtrak's 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. Mr. Riddle's complaint further avers that "beginning on or about June, 1989 and continuing at least until September, 1992, defendant has engaged in [certain] . . . negligent and unlawful conduct which amounts to the negligent infliction of emotional distress and harassment of plaintiff which directly and proximately caused plaintiff's injuries . . ."

 This was not, however, the first action filed by Mr. Riddle for the emotional injuries which he purportedly suffered at the hands of his employer. Rather, it appears that Mr. Riddle had filed a nearly identical claim with this Court on May 29, 1992 and that that action had been transferred by stipulation of the parties to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on July 28, 1992. Thereafter, on January 13, 1993, no action having been taken in that case since its transfer, Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered that counsel for plaintiff enter an appearance no later than January 29, 1993 in accordance with that court's local rules or show cause why the action should not be dismissed for want of prosecution. Plaintiff's counsel failed to comply with this order and, on February 2, 1993, the defendant filed a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the action with the D.C. court. Plaintiff likewise failed to respond to this motion with the result that on March 22, 1993, Judge Oberdorfer entered an order treating the defendant's motion to dismiss as "conceded under Local Rule 108(b)" and dismissing the action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).

 I. DISCUSSION.

 A. Standards Governing Motions to Dismiss

 It has long been recognized that a Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motion is the appropriate method by which to challenge the legal sufficiency of a claim or pleading filed in the district courts. See: United States v. Marisol, Inc., 725 F. Supp. 833 (M.D.Pa. 1989). In ruling upon a 12(b)(6) motion, the court primarily considers the allegations in the complaint, although matters of public record, orders, items appearing in the record of the case and exhibits attached to the complaint may also be taken into account. Chester County Intermediate Unit v. Pennsylvania Blue Shield, 896 F.2d 808, 812 (3rd Cir. 1990). In so reviewing the pleadings and any materials of record, the court must accept as true all of the matters pleaded and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, construing them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3rd Cir. 1990); Hough/Lowe Assoc., Inc. v. CLX Realty Co., 760 F. Supp. 1141, 1142 (E.D.Pa. 1991); Ambrogi v. Gould, Inc., 750 F. Supp. 1233, 1241 (M.D.Pa. 1990). A complaint is properly dismissed only if it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S. Ct. 99, 101-102, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80 (1957); Ransom v. Marrazzo, 848 F.2d 398, 401 (3rd Cir. 1988).

 B. Applicability of the Doctrine of Res Judicata.

 By way of the motion to dismiss which is now pending before this court, the defendant first asserts that under the doctrine of res judicata Plaintiff is effectively barred from bringing and maintaining this action by virtue of Judge Oberdorfer's March 22, 1993 order.

 It has long been recognized that res judicata is a doctrine of claim preclusion; it refers to "the preclusive effect of a judgment in foreclosing relitigation of matters that should have been raised in an earlier suit." Claim preclusion "extends not only to the precise legal theory presented in the previous litigation, but to all legal theories and claims arising out of the same operative nucleus of fact. Hart v Yamaha-Parts Distributors, Inc., 787 F.2d 1468, 1470 (11th Cir. 1986) quoting Migra v. Warren City School District Board of Education, 465 U.S. 75, 77 n.1, 104 S. Ct. 892, 894 n.1, 79 L. Ed. 2d 56 (1984) and Olmstead v. Amoco Oil Co., 725 F.2d 627, 632 (11th Cir. 1984). For the defense of res judicata to succeed, four elements must be found to coalesce: (1) the first suit resulted in a final judgment on the merits; (2) the first suit was based on proper jurisdiction; (3) both suits involved the same cause of action; and (4) both suits involved the same parties or their privies. O'Dell v. McSpadden, 780 F. Supp. 639, 643 (E.D. Mo. 1991); Kellner v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 605 F. Supp. 326, 330 (M.D.Pa. 1984). See Also: Recchion on Behalf of Westinghouse Electric Corp. v. Kirby, 637 F. Supp. 284, 286 (W.D.Pa. 1985); Roodveldt v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc., 585 F. Supp. 770, 775 (E.D.Pa. 1984).

 While the determination of whether an initial suit was based upon proper jurisdictional grounds and involved the same cause of action and parties as the subsequent action is relatively simple, resolution of the question of whether the first action resulted in a final determination on the merits is somewhat more problematic. For example, Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b) provides that as a general rule, a dismissal with prejudice operates as a judgment on the merits unless the court specifies otherwise. That rule further authorizes a district court to dismiss an action for failure to prosecute, or to comply with [the] rules or any order of court and states that unless the court otherwise specifies, dismissal on these grounds, too, operates as an adjudication upon the merits. See: Napier v. ...


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