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Callaway v. Wynn

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 1, 2015

OREADER CALLAWAY, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. WYNN, et al., Defendants.

OPINION

ROBERT B. KUGLER, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee incarcerated at the Cumberland County Jail in Bridgeton, New Jersey. He is proceeding pro se with an amended civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Presently pending before the Court is defendants', Dr. Lawrence Wynn and Corizon Health Care, motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss will be granted.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed an amended complaint in 2014. The amended complaint named three defendants: (1) Cumberland County Jail; (2) Corizon; and (3) Dr. Wynn. In September, 2014, this Court screened the amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A to determine whether it stated a claim upon which relief could be granted. The Court dismissed the complaint as to the Cumberland County Jail because it was not a person subject to suit under § 1983. ( See Dkt. No. 8 at p. 1-2.) However, the Court permitted plaintiff's claims against Corizon and Dr. Wynn to proceed past screening.

Plaintiff asserted in the amended complaint that he entered the Cumberland County Jail in August 2012. He had continued chronic pain to his right shoulder due to an injury he sustained when he was arrested in June, 2012. He claimed that there was a policy in place at the prison such that the prison did not provide rehabilitation narcotic pain medication or MRIs to inmates. Based on these allegations, the Court found that plaintiff had properly stated a claim to permit the complaint to proceed past screening as to Corizon and Dr. Wynn. ( See id. at p. 2.)

In November, 2014, defendants Corizon and Dr. Wynn filed a motion to dismiss. They argue that plaintiff's amended complaint is barred by res judicata. The defendants assert that plaintiff's claims are based on the same operative facts and occurrences as were his claims against them in a state court action that was decided against plaintiff on the merits.

III. LEGAL STANDARD FOR MOTION TO DISMISS PURSUANT TO RULE 12(b)(6)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss an action for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. In evaluating a motion to dismiss, "courts accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.'" Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008)). In other words, a complaint survives a motion to dismiss if it contains sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Res Judicata

As stated above, defendants have filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) and argue that res judicata, or claim preclusion, warrants dismissal of the complaint. The defense of res judicata/claim preclusion, "may be raised and adjudicated on a motion to dismiss and the court can take judicial notice of all facts necessary for the decision." Toscano v. Connecticut Gen. Life Ins. Co., 288 F.Appx. 36, 38 (3d Cir. 2008) (per curiam) (citing Connelly Found. v. Sch. Dist. of Haverford Twp., 461 F.2d 495, 496 (3d Cir. 1972)). Thus, "a court may take judicial notice of the record from a previous court proceeding between the parties." Id. (citing Oneida Motor Freight, Inc. v. United Jersey Bank, 848 F.2d 414, 416 n.3 (3d Cir. 1988)). However, defendants still have the burden of proving that res judicata applies. See id. (citing Gen. Elec. Co. v. Deutz AG, 270 F.3d 144, 158 (3d Cir. 2001)).

Res judicata, or claim preclusion, bars a subsequent suit where there has been "(1) a final judgment on the merits in a prior suit involving (2) the same claim and (3) the same parties or their privies." E.E.O.C. v. U.S. Steel Corp., 921 F.2d 489, 493 (3d Cir. 1990) (citations omitted); see also Marmon Coal Co. v. Dir., Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, 726 F.3d 387, 394 (3d Cir. 2013). "The doctrine of res judicata bars not only claims that were brought in a previous action, but also claims that could have been brought." Id. (quoting Duhaney v. Att'y Gen., 621 F.3d 340, 347 (3d Cir. 2010)); see also Frame v. Lowe, No. 09-2673, 2010 WL 503024, at *6 (D.N.J. Feb. 8, 2010) ("The [res judicata] defense prevents litigation on grounds for recovery that were previously available, even if not asserted.") (citing Brown v. Felsen, 442 U.S. 127, 131 (1979)). "[A] federal court must give to a state court judgment the same preclusive effect as would be given that judgment under the law of the State in which the judgment was rendered.'" Balthazar v. Atlantic City Med. Ctr., 137 F.Appx. 482, 488 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting Walker v. Horn, 385 F.3d 321, 337 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Migra v. Warrant City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 465 U.S. 75, 81 (1984))) (remaining citation omitted). Res judicata "encourages reliance on judicial decisions, bars vexatious litigation, and frees the courts to resolve other disputes." Brown, 442 U.S. at 131.

Determining whether a subsequent suit involves the same claim "does not depend on the specific legal theory invoked, but rather the essential similarity of the underlying events giving rise to the various legal claims.'" Elkadrawy v. Vanguard Group, Inc., 584 F.3d 169, 173 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Davis v. U.S. Steel Supply, 688 F.2d 166, 171 (3d Cir. 1982)). In making this determination, a court focuses on "[1] whether the acts complained of were the same, [2] whether the material facts alleged in each suit were the same, and [3] whether the witnesses and ...


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