Hare v. Opryland Hospitality, LLC et al, No. 8:2011cv01439 - Document 18 (D. Md. 2011)

Court Description: MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Deborah K. Chasanow on 12/9/11. (sat, Chambers)
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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND : JOSHUA HARE : v. : Civil Action No. DKC 11-1439 : OPRYLAND HOSPITALITY, LLC : MEMORANDUM OPINION Presently pending and ready for review in this personal injury case are two motions: the motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Opryland Hospitality, LLC and Anthony Rakis (ECF No. 9), and the motion to consolidate filed by Plaintiff Joshua Hare (ECF No. 10). The issues have been fully briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss will be granted, and the motion to consolidate will be denied as moot. I. Background A. Factual Background Plaintiff Joshua Hare alleges the following facts. evening of June 28, 2008, Hare attended friends at the Pose Ultra Lounge, which a is party On the with located at some the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center ( the Gaylord ) in National Harbor, Maryland. Defendant Opryland Hospitality, LLC ( Opryland ) operates the Gaylord. In the early morning of June 29, 2008, as Hare s group was preparing to leave the party, an Opryland bouncer named Karl Hedgeman assaulted one of Hare s friends. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 4). Hare tried to shield his friend from further assault, when Hedgeman punched . . . Hare several times and knocked him to the floor. (Id. ¶ 5). Hedgeman then smashed . . . Hare in the head with a liquor bottle, causing a significant wound to Hare s left cheek. (Id. ¶ 6). Defendant Anthony Rakis was working as the manager of the Pose Ultra Lounge on the night of June 28, 2008. Rakis observed . . . Hedgeman s assault first on . . . Hare s friend and then on . . . Hare from several feet away. (Id. ¶¶ 9-10). Rakis did not intervene to stop Hedgeman s actions. After the incident, Rakis ordered Hedgeman to go to Rakis s office. Hare went to a local hospital for emergency treatment and follow-up care. As a result of the events of that night, he has a significant disfiguring scar on his face which is permanent. (Id. ¶ 14). B. The Procedural Background procedural complicated. history of this case is somewhat Before the instant case was filed, Hare first brought suit on November 28, 2008, against Gaylord Entertainment Co. and Gaylord National, LLC in the Circuit Court for Prince 2 George s County, Maryland ( Hare I ).1 this court. That case was removed to Hare then filed a first amended complaint naming Opryland as the sole defendant and asserting that (1) Opryland was liable for Hare s injuries inflicted by Hedgeman under the theory of respondeat superior and (2) Opryland was liable for negligent hiring, retention, and training Discovery proceeded throughout most of the of Hedgeman. following year, closing on October 30, 2009. On January 25, 2010, Hare filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint that added a request for punitive damages as well as claims that Opryland s employees mishandled the closing procedures, that Opryland s manager negligently supervised its employees, and that Opryland negligently trained staff other than Hedgeman. In a September 17, 2010, memorandum opinion and order, this court granted in part and denied in part Hare s motion. Hare was barred from seeking punitive damages and claims adding new related to Opryland s supervision and training of employees other than Hedgeman, but he was permitted to add certain allegations pertaining training, and retention of Hedgeman. to Opryland s hiring, After the issuance of the opinion, Hare did not move for reconsideration within the time 1 Hare v. Opryland Hospitality, LLC, No. DKC 09-0599 (D.Md. filed Mar. 10, 2009). 3 permitted under the Local Rules, nor did he file a complaint with the permitted amendments. As Hare explained at a pretrial conference on December 13, 2010, he understood the September 17th opinion as barring only those claims related to the employees other than Hedgeman, but that a claim of negligent supervision of Hedgeman himself was permitted and was to be presented at trial. Following the pretrial conference, on December 15, 2010, Hare filed a motion for reconsideration dismissal so negligent that opinion he supervision reconsideration purpose. or of the voluntary could dismissal. refile his or, in claim September 17th case Hare to the opinion sought include a alternative, for the same On September 15, 2011, this court issued a memorandum and order granting in part and denying in part the motion, thereby permitting Hare to add a claim of negligent supervision of Hedgeman. Trial was set for May 2012. On May 26, 2011, after Hare moved for reconsideration or voluntary dismissal but before this court ruled, Hare filed the complaint in the instant case against Opryland and Rakis in this court ( Hare II ). This complaint contains four counts arising from the same nucleus of facts of the still-pending Hare I case: (1) battery; (2) negligence; (3) negligent supervision; and (4) negligent training. All counts are asserted against Opryland, while only Count Two is asserted against Rakis. 4 In addition, this complaint seeks punitive damages. This case was temporarily stayed pending the resolution of Hare s motion for reconsideration or voluntary dismissal in Hare I. That motion now having been decided, Defendants moved to dismiss the Hare II complaint on October 6, 2011. 2011, Hare opposed (ECF Defendants replied to Separately, on motion to No. 12), Hare s October Rakis from the case. (ECF No. 9). 21, and Hare 2011, I November 7, 2011, (ECF No. 16). opposition Hare (ECF No. 11). consolidate on On October 21, voluntarily That same day, Hare filed a and Hare II. (ECF Opryland filed an opposition on November 7, 2011. On November 23, 2011, Hare replied. II. dismissed No. 10). (ECF No. 15). (ECF No. 17). Analysis Defendants dismissed first because litigation. argue this that case is the complaint duplicative of should the be Hare I Hare does not address this argument, explaining only that he filed the complaint to preserve [his] claim within the statute Because this of limitations issue is period. dispositive, (ECF No. 12, Defendants at 1). remaining arguments need not be addressed. It is within a district court s power to stay or dismiss a suit that is duplicative of another federal court suit. See Colo. River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 817 (1976) ( As between federal district courts, . . . the 5 general principle is to avoid duplicative litigation. ). This rule against duplicative litigation, also referred to as claim splitting, is the other action pending facet of the res judicata doctrine. (6th Cir. 1998).2 Davis v. Sun Oil Co., 148 F.3d 606, 613 Like res judicata, claim splitting prohibits a plaintiff from prosecuting its case piecemeal, and requires that all claims arising out of a single wrong be presented in one action. Sensormatic Sec. Corp. v. Sensormatic Elecs. Corp., 452 F.Supp.2d 621, 626 (D.Md. 2006) (quoting Myers v. Colgate Palmolive Co., 102 F.Supp.2d 1208, 1224 (D.Kan. 2000)). Thus, when a suit is pending in federal court, a plaintiff has no right to assert another action on the same subject in the same court, against the same defendant at the same time. Curtis v. Citibank, N.A., 226 F.3d 133, 139 (2d Cir. 2000). In a claim splitting case, as with the traditional res judicata analysis, the second suit will be barred if the claim 2 The rule against claim splitting is based on the same principles as res judicata. Res judicata applies, however, when a second suit is filed after a final adjudication of a first suit, and claim splitting applies when, like here, two suits are pending at the same time. Regardless of the differences in form, both doctrines intend to foster[] judicial economy and protect[] the parties from vexatious and expensive litigation. Curtis v. Citibank, N.A., 226 F.3d 133, 138 (2d Cir. 2000). To meet these objectives, courts faced with duplicative suits may stay the second suit, dismiss it without prejudice, enjoin the parties from proceeding with it, or consolidate the two actions. See id. at 139 (citing cases in which courts took various actions). 6 involves the same parties or their privies and arises out of the same transaction or series of transactions as the first claim. See Trustmark Ins. Co. v. ESLU, Inc., 299 F.3d 1265, 1269 70 (11th Cir. 2002). The court must assess whether the second suit raises issues that should have been brought in the first. Curtis, 226 F.3d at 140. This court previously held that: Very often, the doctrine of claim splitting applies to bar a plaintiff from filing a new lawsuit after the court in an earlier action denied leave to amend the complaint to add those claims. See N. Assurance Co. v. Square D Co., 201 F.3d 84, 87 88 (2d Cir. 2000) (collecting cases dismissing claim in second suit that was duplicative of claim sought to be amended in first suit); In re Kevco, Inc., 309 B.R. 458, 465 66 (Bkrtcy.N.D.Tex. 2004) (same). The preclusion of a claim not only prohibits a plaintiff from filing duplicative suits and from circumventing an earlier ruling of the court, it is in keeping with the rule that a plaintiff must bring suit against the same defendant on all claims that relate to the same conduct, transaction or event at the same time. Curtis, 226 F.3d at 139. Sensormatic Sec. Corp. v. Sensormatic Elecs. Corp., 329 F.Supp.2d 574, 579 (D.Md. 2004). Here, it is undisputed that the parties, the forum, and the underlying conduct giving rise to the claims in Hare I and Hare II are not just similar, but are identical. concedes as much in the Hare II complaint: 7 Hare readily Plaintiff has a case pending before this Court (Civil Case No. 8:09-cv-00599) that is based on the same underlying facts set forth in this Complaint. In that case, Plaintiff is awaiting a ruling from the Court on his Motion for Voluntary Dismissal or to Reconsider, filed on December 15, 2010. Due to the approaching Statute of Limitations date, Plaintiff files this Complaint. (ECF No. 1, at 1 n.1) (emphasis added). II Substantively, the Hare complaint differs from the operative three main respects. First, it Hare I includes a complaint in new claim for negligence; second, it includes an explicit claim for negligent supervision; damages. and third, it includes a request for punitive Under the doctrine of claim splitting, none of these issues may proceed. To begin, Hare does not explain nor could he why he failed to include a negligence claim in Hare I. Because the negligence claim is founded upon the same set of allegations that is presented in Hare I, a negligence claim could have been asserted in that case at the earliest stages of the pleadings. Hare may not use this parallel proceeding to effect an end-run around the deadline for amending the complaint in Hare I, which was April 27, 2009. Hare filed the complaint in this case on May 26, 2011 over two years after that deadline. Similarly, this proceeding is an inappropriate mechanism for asserting a negligent supervision claim in Hare I. In Hare I, Hare moved for reconsideration with respect to the court s 8 September 17, 2010, order, in which Hare s motion for leave to file a second amended complaint was denied. By granting in part the motion for reconsideration, the court essentially granted Hare leave to file a second negligent supervision claim. amended complaint to include a If Hare still intends to pursue a negligent supervision claim, his avenue to do so lies in Hare I, not here. Finally, this court expressly considered and rejected Hare s request for punitive damages when it initially denied Hare s motion for leave to file a second amended complaint in Hare I. The court found a lack of diligence on Hare s part in seeking punitive damages such that good cause for altering the scheduling order to allow complaint was not shown. amendments to the first amended When Hare sought reconsideration of the court s September 17th order, he sought reconsideration with respect to only the negligent supervision claim. motion, nor subsequently in the filed, two did supplements Hare even to the mention Nowhere in his motion punitive that he damages. Indeed, the court did not address this issue in its September 15, 2011, memorandum opinion and order. Here, Hare asserts that his claim for punitive damages belongs in this case, where Opryland s employee Mr. Hedgeman acted with the intent to injure and with evil motive when he intentionally struck Mr. Hare in the head with a bottle. (ECF No. 10, at 4). 9 As with the other new issues identified in Hare II, however, Hare still fails to explain why his request for punitive damages could not have been timely brought in Hare I. Accordingly, the complaint in this case shall be dismissed. Because the complaint here will be dismissed, Hare s motion to consolidate will be denied as moot. E.g., Int l Org. of Masters, Mates, & Pilots v. Prevas, 20 F.Supp.2d 895, 898 (D.Md. 1998); Food Lion, Inc. v. Capital Cities/ABC, Inc., 946 F.Supp. 420, 422 (M.D.N.C. 1996). III. Conclusion For the foregoing reasons, the motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Opryland Hospitality, LLC and Anthony Rakis will be granted. The motion to consolidate filed by Plaintiff Joshua Hare will be denied as moot. A separate order will follow. /s/ DEBORAH K. CHASANOW United States District Judge 10