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Hicks v. Redd

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 7, 2019

DEMOND HICKS, Plaintiff,
v.
LIEUTENANT JAMES REDD, JR., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          WILLIAM G. YOUNG, DISTRICT JUDGE

         The plaintiff Demond Hicks (“Hicks”) sued Lieutenant James Redd, Jr. (“Redd”) under section 1983 of chapter 42 of the United States Code for alleged violations of his Eighth Amendment rights. Compl., ECF No. 1. Redd seeks dismissal of the action on the basis of non-mutual claim preclusion. Def.'s Mot. Dismiss Claim Preclusion, ECF No. 12; Mem. Law Supp. Def.'s Mot. Dismiss Claim Preclusion (“Def.'s Mem. Claim Preclusion”), ECF No. 13. Redd contends that the Court's final judgment in Hicks' earlier lawsuit against Redd's subordinates precludes this suit. See Judgment, Hicks v. Public Safety Sec'y, No. 17- cv-10195-WGY, ECF No. 73 (D. Mass. Oct. 12, 2018) (“Hicks I”), appeal docketed, No. 18-2041 (1st Cir. Oct. 24, 2018).

         The present motion requires the Court to consider the bounds of res judicata.

         I. PRINCIPLES OF RES JUDICATA

         First, res judicata “has the dual purpose of protecting litigants from the burden of relitigating an identical issue with the same party or his privy and of promoting judicial economy by preventing needless litigation.” Parklane Hosiery Co., Inc. v. Shore, 439 U.S. 322, 326 (1979). To this end, the federal rules and courts encourage litigants to bring all related claims in a single lawsuit. The rules do so, in part, by disallowing suits seeking to adjudicate claims that arise from the same nucleus of operative fact as claims that were previously adjudicated, and that were, or could have been, brought. Gonzalez v. Banco Cent. Corp., 27 F.3d 751, 755-56 (1st Cir. 1994) (citing Kale v. Combined Ins. Co., 924 F.2d 1161, 1165 (1st Cir. 1991)); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 18, 19, 20 (liberally permitting joinder of claims and parties).

         Second, the federal rules facilitate claim preclusion with liberal amendment standards; pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15, a plaintiff may amend his or her complaint as matter of right within 21 days of service of the complaint or a responsive pleading, but also anytime thereafter with the permission of the opposing party or the court, which the court is “freely to give . . . when justice so requires.” Finally, “the achievement of substantial justice rather than symmetry is the measure of the fairness of the rules of res judicata.” Blonder-Tongue Labs. v. University of Ill. Found., 402 U.S. 313, 325 (1971) (quoting Bruszewski v. United States, 181 F.2d 419, 421 (3d Cir. 1950)).

         Here, Hicks did not have an opportunity to sue Redd for alleged violations of his Eighth Amendment rights despite his sincere efforts beginning early in the litigation. Applying the above principles to the present case, the Court rules that substantial justice is best achieved by allowing Hicks' case against Redd to move forward.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Hicks' attempt to sue Redd has taken a circuitous route, which the Court sketches out as it is relevant here. See Medina-Padilla v. United States Aviation Underwriters, Inc., 815 F.3d 83, 85-86 (1st Cir. 2016) (“Where a motion to dismiss is premised on res judicata, [the court] may take into account, in addition to the well-pleaded facts in the complaint, the record in the original action.”).

         On February 1, 2017, Hicks filed a complaint against Daniel Bennett, the Secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, and the Massachusetts Department of Corrections (“the Department”) alleging various violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and section 1983 of chapter 42 of the United States Code. Compl., Hicks I, ECF No. 1. After Bennett and the Department moved to dismiss, Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Failure State Claim and Mem. Law Supp. Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Failure State Claim, Hicks I, ECF Nos. 11-12, Hicks voluntarily dismissed Bennett and sought leave to amend to add three additional defendants: Officers “McGlynn” and “Povado” and Lieutenant “Redd, ” Notice Voluntary Dismissal Secretary Bennett and Mot. Amend Compl. Add 3 Defs., Hicks I, ECF Nos. 15-16.

         On April 4, 2017, the Court allowed the Department's pending motion to dismiss “without prejudice to the filing of a motion to amend setting forth a plausible claim for relief against the individuals sought to be added as defendants.” Order, Hicks I, ECF No. 20.

         Hicks thus once again filed for leave to amend, with one critical error: in his motion to amend, he expressed an intent to “amend to reflect the identity and the actions of officers McGlynn, Povado, Redd, ” Mot. Leave File Am. Compl. Pursuant Ct.'s Order 4/4/17, Hicks I, ECF No. 22, but in the proposed complaint attached to his motion, he named only McGlynn and Polvado, Am. Compl., Hicks I, ECF No. 22-1. This seeming oversight ultimately doomed Hicks' ability to include Redd in his original suit.

         On April 13, 2017, the Court denied Hicks' motion to file an amended complaint, ruling that there were no allegations “concerning who, if anyone, is alleged deliberately to have denied the petitioner necessary medical care.” Order, Hicks I, ECF No. 25.

         On review, the First Circuit affirmed “the dismissal of all claims except for the Eighth Amendment Claim, ” ruling the allegations “sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss an ...


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