Civil Procedure II, Pages 747–748

Illinois Central Gulf Railroad v. Parks

Court of Appeals of Indiana, 1979

Facts:

Plaintiff was injured in a collision with defendant's train. He and his wife sued defendant for her injuries and his loss of her services and consortium. Plaintiff's wife recovered $30,000 and plaintiff's claim was denied. Plaintiff then sued for his own injuries.

Procedural History:

Trial court held that plaintiff's claim was not barred by claim preclusion and that the prior action did not preclude plaintiff on the issue of contributory negligence.

Issue:

Is plaintiff's claim precluded by the prior judgment against him?

Rule:

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"[W]here a judgment may have been based upon either or any of two or more distinct facts, a party desiring to plead the judgment as an estoppel by verdict or finding upon the particular fact involved in a subsequent suit must show that it went upon that fact, or else the question will be open to a new contention. The estoppel of a judgment is only presumptively conclusive, when it appears that the judgment could not have been rendered without deciding the particular matter brought in question. It is necessary to look to the complete record to ascertain what was the question in issue."

Defendant's Argument:

As it was uncontroverted whether plaintiff lost services and consortium, the jury's verdict against him had to be based on contributory negligence.

Plaintiff's Argument:

Although the evidence in the first case was uncontroverted, it was minimal, so the jury could have found that there were no compensable damages.

Explanation:

The jury only gave a general verdict, so one cannot know why it returned the verdict that it did.

Reasoning:

  • As plaintiff is litigating a different cause of action than in the first case, his claim cannot be subject to claim preclusion.

    Note:

    This is the minority view that defines these as two separate claims, since it requires his loss of consortium claim to be brought with his wife's claims.

  • Defendant has not met its burden of showing that the judgment against plaintiff in the first case was because plaintiff was contributorily negligent.

Holding:

No, plaintiff's claim is not precluded. Affirmed.

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