Before: SCIRICA, NYGAARD and McKEE, Circuit Judges
ON APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS DIVISION OF ST. THOMAS AND ST. JOHN
The appellant, Lewis F. Huck, suing derivatively on behalf of Sea Air Shuttle Corporation, appeals separate orders of the district court dismissing his suit and awarding costs and attorneys' fees to the appellees. Huck argues that the district court erred first by applying the res judicata doctrine, and second, by awarding costs and attorneys' fees to the appellees. We conclude that Huck's arguments, and indeed this appeal, are frivolous and will affirm the orders of the district court.
This appeal arises from the Virgin Islands Port Authority's (VIPA) refusal to allow Sea Air to use VIPA owned seaplane ramps in St. Thomas and St. Croix. As a result of Hurricane Hugo in September 1989, the seaplane service that operated between St. Croix and St. Thomas and used VIPA's seaplane ramps went out of business. In early 1990, VIPA issued a request for proposals to lease the seaplane ramps. In the course of the bidding process, VIPA considered the joint proposal of Sea Air and an affiliated company, Caribbean Airline Services, Inc. After investigating the operations of Sea Air and Caribbean, their joint proposal was rejected in favor of another bidder.
In response to being rejected, Sea Air sued VIPA and the successful bidder. In its various amended complaints, Sea Air alleged that VIPA's choice of bidders was unlawful because it violated VIPA's bidding statute; violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution; violated local and federal antitrust laws; violated Title 29, Section 543 of the V.I. Code (defining the powers of VIPA); violated the Commerce Clause; and, violated federal law under the Federal Aviation Act. The district court dismissed the antitrust claims on federal and state action immunity grounds, and the Commerce Clause and FAA claims because they were included in Sea Air's third amended complaint, filed just two weeks before trial was scheduled to begin. The district court then entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants on the balance of the claims. Significantly, Sea Air did not appeal these orders.
Later, however, Huck recycled Sea Air's claims and sued as a shareholder, derivatively on behalf of Sea Air, against VIPA and various Virgin Islands government and VIPA officials. The gravamen of his complaint was the same as that of the earlier dismissed action. Huck acknowledges the identity of the two actions, but defends his right to file the second by contending that VIPA, in continuing to deny Sea Air access to the ramps, drove his company into bankruptcy. Moreover, Huck contends that the final and unappealed judgment entered against Sea Air in the earlier case did not bar his lawsuit because the earlier decision was "fraudulently obtained," since the defendants in that action did not reveal that federal funds had been used or that federal law arguably prohibited the granting of exclusive leases for use of air navigation facilities.
The district court found Huck's claims barred by res judicata, holding that Huck's claims on behalf of Sea Air arose out of the same transaction and events that gave rise to the earlier lawsuit, and that the same had been earlier adjudicated. Huck, the court held, could not avoid the effects of res judicata simply because he was now asserting that a different degree or extent of damage than earlier alleged. The fact that he continued to suffer from the effects of the earlier judgment did not render the claims to be not fully litigated. Moreover, it concluded that the parties were in privity, a conclusion that Huck has never challenged. Further, the court found that Huck's allegations of fraud were meritless and "[could] be characterized as nothing other than frivolous." Accordingly, the district court dismissed Huck's claims and entered judgment in favor of the defendants. The district court then, upon motion of the defendants and without opposition from Huck, awarded attorneys' fees to the defendants. In its memorandum explaining the award of attorneys' fees, the district court stated that Huck's lawsuits "were frivolous and groundless, lacking any factual or legal basis . . . ." Huck now appeals those orders.
On appeal, Huck offers an array of arguments why he believes the res judicata doctrine should not have barred his claims in the district court, including: (1) his claims are for damages incurred after the first judgment, and thus constitute a different cause of action; (2) his claims were not fully litigated in the first lawsuit; (3) his claims are premised on a different set of facts; (4) his claims seek a different remedy than the claims in the first lawsuit; (5) res judicata should be used only sparingly in civil rights cases; (6) res judicata should not be applied if the first judgment was erroneous; and, (7) res judicata should not be applied where it would result in "injustice." In addition, and although he did not oppose the fee motion below, Huck now contends that the district court erred by awarding attorneys' fees to the appellees.
We have jurisdiction over these appeals under 28 U.S.C. Section(s) 1291, 1294(3). We review the district court's application of res judicata to bar the appellant's claims under a plenary standard. O'Leary v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., 923 F.2d 1062, 1064-65 (3d Cir. 1991). The district court's award of attorneys' fees to the appellees will stand "unless [the court] has erred legally, or the facts on which the determination rests are clearly ...