Easy Multiple Choice from the 2010 CivPro Exam
Hard Essay Question from the 2004 CivPro Exam

Multiple Choice from the 2004 CivPro Exam

Question 4.
P, a citizen of New York, sues D, a citizen of New Jersey, for $100,000 in damages under New York battery law in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York. P seeks compensation for the partial loss of sight in an eye, as a result of a barroom brawl between P, on one side, and D and D’s friend, X (a citizen of New Jersey), on the other. D joins a contribution action against X for $50,000. After discovery, X brings a motion for summary judgment against D on the grounds that a reasonable jury would have to find that all of P’s damages were the result of D’s actions alone. X’s motion is granted. At trial, P receives a verdict in his favor and the court awards him a judgment against D for $60,000. Some months later, D sues X in New York state court under New York battery law for the $10,000 in damages caused by X’s blows against D during the brawl. Which of the following is most accurate about D’s $10,000 action against X?

a. It is claim precluded.

b. It is not claim precluded, because X was not a necessary party in the earlier proceedings in federal court.

c. It is not claim precluded. The action could not have been entertained by the federal court because there would have been no federal subject matter jurisdiction for it.

d. It is not claim precluded, because Fed. R. Civ. P. 14(a) would not have allowed the action to be joined. It was not a claim that X was liable to D for all or part of P’s claim against D.

e. It is not claim precluded, because D’s action against X in the earlier proceedings in federal court was disposed of on summary judgment.

 

ANSWER

a. It is claim precluded.


Correct. To bring a contribution action, D must have been claiming that the damages that P was asking from D were the result of X's and D's actions as joint tortfeasors. Under such circumstances P can sue D for the total damages P sustained from X's and D's activities, but D has a right to sue X for contribution to recover that part of the damages that D paid to P that were X's responsibility. At the time D sued X for contribution, D had an obligation to join all causes of action he had against X that concerned the same transaction as the contribution action. The transactional standard is used under both federal and New York law of claim preclusion (see O'Brien v. City of Syracuse for the New York standard) so you don't have to worry about the Erie issue of whether state or federal common law applies concerning the scope of a claim in diversity actions. D's claim against X for the damages that X caused D in the brawl concerns the same transaction as D's contribution action against X. Therefore, under D is claim precluded from bringing it later.

b. It is not claim precluded, because X was not a necessary party in the earlier proceedings in federal court.


Wrong. This is basically gibberish. When D sues X, claim preclusion applies whether or not X is a necessary party.

c. It is not claim precluded. The action could not have been entertained by the federal court because there would have been no federal subject matter jurisdiction for it.


Wrong. There would have been supplemental jurisdiction. D's claim against X concerned the same constitutional case or controversy as P's diversity action against D. They both concerned a common nucleus of operative fact (the brawl). This would, incidentally, have been a case of ancillary jurisdiction. In addition, 28 USC 1367(b) would have been satisfied because D's claim against X would not have been a claim by a plaintiff "against persons made parties under Rule 14, 19, 20, or 24 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, or [a claim] by persons proposed to be joined as plaintiffs under Rule 19 of such rules, or seeking to intervene as plaintiffs under Rule 24 of such rules."

d. It is not claim precluded, because Fed. R. Civ. P. 14(a) would not have allowed the action to be joined. It was not a claim that X was liable to D for all or part of P’s claim against D.


Wrong. It is true that the action would not have been joinable under R. 14(a) for the reason stated. But under R. 18(a) it would have been joinable to the contribution action that D had already properly joined against X under R. 14(a). Under R. 18(a), "a party asserting a claim to relief as [a] ... third-party claim, may join, either as independent or as alternate claims, as many claims, legal, equitable, or maritime, as the party has against an opposing party." D was already bringing a third-party claim (the contribution action) and so, under 18(a) may join whatever other claims he has against X.

e. It is not claim precluded, because D’s action against X in the earlier proceedings in federal court was disposed of on summary judgment.


Wrong. Summary judgments have claim preclusive effect. 

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