Defenses: Res Judicata

MONTANA SUPREME COURT DECISIONS
Grenz v. Fire & Casualty of Connecticut ,2001 MT 8. Pro se claimant's estoppel arguments are rehashing of previously litigated claims and subject to summary judgment on ground of res judicata.
Grenz v. Fire and Casualty of Connecticut, 1998 MT 35N, No. 97-503 (Grenz V) (non-citeable opinion) In a non-citeable opinion, Supreme Court affirmed WCC determination that res judicata did not bar pro se claimant from arguing that his 1984 elbow injury claim encompassed a separate and independent claim for occupational disease benefits. Although this claimant has engaged in "a seemingly endless stream of litigation that has resulted in multiple appeals to this Court," this particular claim has not yet been litigated.
 
WORKERS' COMPENSATION COURT DECISIONS
Miller v. State Fund [5/14/01] 2001 MTWCC 21. Arguments for reopening settlement which could have been made in prior proceeding asking for reopening of settlement could not be made in new case.
American Alernative Ins. Group v. Sung Sorenson & MSGIA [9/19/00] 2000 MTWCC 60 Two successive insurers of school district moved for summary judgment arguing that janitor's 1997 OD claim was barred by doctrine of collateral estoppel or res judicata where OD claim filed in 1996 was denied by DOL based on OD panel examination and claimant did not request a hearing on that denial. Court denied motion for summary judgment where claimant raised triable issues of material fact regarding whether her work following her 1996 claim materially aggravated her condition or she suffers from a new condition.
Grenz v. Fire & Casualty of Connecticut [2/14/01] 2000 MTWCC 36 The doctrine of res judicata bars a party from relitigating a matter he or she has already had an opportunity to litigate. Once there has been a full opportunity to present an issue for judicial decision in a given proceeding, the determination of the court in that proceeding must be accorded finality as to all issues raised or which fairly could have been raised, else judgments might be attacked piecemeal without end. Res judicata has four elements: (1) the parties or their privies are the same; (2) the subject matter of the claim is the same; (3) the issues are the same and relate to the same subject matter; (4) the capacities of the parties are the same in reference to the subject matter and the issues.
Schimmel v. Montana Uninsured Employers' Fund [4/4/00] 2000 MTWCC 19 Washington court's determination in contract action that claimant contracted to work as an independent contractor is not controlling of IC issue raised in Montana workers' compensation proceeding. Parties cannot evade the substantive requirements of Montana WC law by their contracts. Contractual designation of claimant as an IC is neither conclusive nor entitled to deference.
Kelly v. StateFund [10/4/99] 1999 MTWCC 60 Claimant suffered a neck injury in 1986, and another neck injury in 1987. In a prior proceeding in the Workers' Compensation Court, and on appeal to the Supreme Court, it was held that claimant reached maximum medical healing prior to second injury, making claimant's status after the second injury the result of the second injury for workers' compensation purposes, under an extension of Belton v. Carlson Transport, 202 Mont. 384, 385-386, 658 P.2d 405, 406 (1983). Claimant now alleges his current deteriorated condition is a result of the 1986 injury. Insurer's motion for partial summary judgment on this issue granted. Res judicata applies, barring any present claim that claimant's post-1987 condition is attributable to the 1986 injury.
Riley v. Transportation Insurance Company [3/2/99] 1999 MTWCC 19
Claimant, spouse of decedent, filed petition for attorneys fees relating to earlier case litigating whether insurer was entitled to offset amounts from future death benefits relating to lump-sum settlement made prior to decedent's death and relating to social security benefits received by spouse. Claimant had made request for attorneys fees in prior case but that request had not been ruled upon by Court. Insurer moved for summary judgment on present claim for attorneys fees, arguing res judicata. Defense of res judicata rejected where the attorney fees request was not determined in the prior action. Although res judicata can sometimes bar litigation of claims which "could and should have been" litigated in a prior action, the issue of attorneys fees was not a question which was necessarily brought or resolved in the prior action, nor was it impliedly covered by the Court's findings and judgment.

Grenz v. Fire and Casualty of Connecticut [7/7/97] 1997 MTWCC 43 WCC reversed DOL determination that res judicata barred pro se claimant from arguing that his 1984 elbow injury claim encompassed a separate and independent claim for occupational disease benefits. (Note: WCC affirmed in Grenz v. Fire and Casualty of Connecticut, 1998 MT 35N, No. 97-503 (Grenz V) (non-citeable opinion)

Ware v. State Compensation Insurance Fund [4/25/97] 1997 MTWCC 26
Where the rules of the WCC do not require that requests for attorney's fees and penalty be joined with substantive claims for benefits, res judicata or collateral estoppel do not prevent claimant from claiming, in a second petition, attorney's fees and penalty relating to benefits awarded on an earlier petition.
Kress v. State Fund [6/25/96] 1996 MTWCC 46 Where claimant sought temporary total disability benefits in a prior case, and failed to carry his burden of proof, the doctrine of res judicata bars any subsequent attempt to obtain temporary total disability benefits for the period prior to the date of the last trial. However, because claimant's condition may have deteriorated after the previous trial, a claim for entitlement to temporary total disability benefits after the prior trial may proceed, but claimant must prove there has been an aggravation of his disability.
Gallup v. State Compensation Insurance Fund [5/21/96] 1996 MTWCC 35 Where claimant’s request for temporary total disability benefits was denied in a prior case, the doctrine of res judicata bars her present attempt to obtain temporary total disability benefits for the period prior to the last trial. Any claim for TTD benefits for the period after the previous trial must turn on whether claimant’s condition changed.
Ostwald v. Plum Creek Manufacturing [12/05/95] 1995 MTWCC 102 Although DOL previously found claimant to suffer from an occupational disease, neither res judicata nor collateral estoppel bar his claim for workers’ compensation benefits where Workers’ Compensation Act and Occupational Disease Act are not the same. Court may determine in this proceeding that claimant suffered a compensable injury aggravating his back condition.