Illinois Central Gulf Railroad v. Parks

181 Ind. App. 141, 390 N.E.2d 1078 (1979)

Yeazell, pp. 836-838


Facts: The Parks’ car collided with an Illinois Central train.  The Parks sued the railroad for personal injuries to Bertha and loss of consortium to Jessie.  Bertha won, but Jessie got nothing.  Then Jessie sued separately for personal injuries.  The railroad moved for summary judgment, and the trial judge said that Jessie’s claim was not barred.  The trial judge also said Jessie was not barred on the issue of contributory negligence.  The railroad appealed.


Issue: Is Jessie’s claim precluded?  Are any particular issues precluded?


Rule: Claim preclusion precludes the relitigation of a cause of action for which there has been a final judgment.  However, issue preclusion applies if the causes of action are not the same but some of the issues raised in the second suit were “actually litigated and determined” in the first suit.


Analysis: The court says that claim preclusion doesn’t apply because the railroad admits that the new suit is based on a distinct cause of action from the first suit.  The court says that issue preclusion may apply to the matter of Jessie’s contributory negligence.  However, the court finds that the jury could have either found for the railroad based on a finding of contributory negligence or Jessie’s failure to meet the burden of proof.  Since there’s no way of knowing why the jury came to the conclusion they did, it’s okay to try the issue over again because the court thinks it wasn’t really “litigated and determined” with finality.


Conclusion: Jessie is allowed to proceed with his action against the railroad for his personal injuries.


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