Civil Procedure II, Pages 717–722

Frier v. City of Vandalia

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, 1985

Facts:

Plaintiff parked his car on a narrow street and blocked the road. After he did not respond to notes left at his house, police had a garage tow his car and left a note telling him so. While the officer did not write plaintiff a ticket, plaintiff did not want to pay the $10 fee the garage wanted, so he instead just drove another car and again parked in the street. After this was towed, he did the same thing again. And then again. After having four cars towed, he sued the city and the garages for replevin of the cars.

Plaintiff dropped one suit to return two cars after the garage did so voluntarily, but the other suits were consolidated and litigated. The court did not grant plaintiff replevin, but one garage returned his car for free regardless. The last garage never returned plaintiff's car.

Plaintiff then filed a complaint in federal court that the city did not offered him a hearing concerning the cars despite being its policy to do so.

Note:

Replevin is an action seeking the return of personal property held by the defendant.

Procedural History:

District court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim because he had notice on how to get his cars back and had a full hearing in his replevin action.

Issue:

Did defendant's replevin action preclude his civil rights claim?

Rule:

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One suit precludes a second "where the parties and the cause of action are identical." "Causes of action are identical where the evidence necessary to sustain a second verdict would sustain the first, i.e., where the causes of action are based upon a common core of operative facts."

Reasoning:

A court should not resolve a constitutional dispute unless absolutely necessary. Here it is not, as plaintiff already had his day in court. While plaintiff could not have obtained punitive damages or declaratory relief in his replevin suit, he could have joined a suit seeking such with it.

Both cases involve the same "common core of operative facts" and the same transactions. They both assert that the city wrongfully towed plaintiff's cars without "legal process."

Holding:

Yes, the replevin action has a claim preclusive effect on plaintiff's § 1983 suit. Affirmed.

Concurring Opinion:

Swygert: Illinois follows the narrower view of claim preclusion. Under this view, claim preclusion does not apply as the causes of action have different elements. The fact that they could have been joined together is irrelevant.

Instead, the city is entitled to summary judgment based on the facts of his claim. The notice of the towing, availability of a suit, and ability to reclaim all of his cars for $10 constitute adequate process.

Note:

This is the narrower view on claim preclusion, as opposed to the Restatement's broader view.

See Also:

R2J § 24