A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Second Lawsuit Regarding Same Automobile Accident Barred by the Entire Controversy Doctrine

By on July 31, 2015 in Blog with 0 Comments

Plaintiff Heather Champagne-Brady claimed to have been injured when her vehicle collided with a motorcycle operated by Anthony Gallo. She was stopped, waiting to turn left, when defendant Gerard Inaugurato was stopped and waved her on to make the left turn in front of him. At that point, she collided with the Gallo motorcycle. In Champagne-Brady v. Gallo, 2015 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1581 (July 1, 2015), her suit was dismissed because it was the second suit involving the same automobile accident and its filing violated the entire controversy doctrine.

Gallo filed his lawsuit first for his injuries stemming from the accident on July 9, 2010. Champagne-Brady was personally served with the Gallo complaint and she turned the case over to her insurance carrier, GEICO, which provided her an attorney to defend her. He filed an answer and a third party complaint against Inaugurato. He later settled the suit about 1 year later for the $15,000 policy limit.

Champagne-Brady filed a complaint against Gallo and Inaugurato for her own injuries on April 23, 2012 (about 8 months after the Gallo case settled). In response, both Gallo and Inaugurato filed motions for summary judgment raising the entire controversy doctrine. Both motions were granted by the trial judge and her complaint was dismissed.  This appeal followed.

The entire controversy doctrine embodies the principle that the adjudication of a legal controversy should occur in one litigation in only one court and that all parties in that litigation must present all of their claims and defenses that are related to the underlying controversy. Court Rule 4:30A provides that “non-joinder of claims required to be joined by the entire controversy doctrine shall result in the preclusion of the omitted claims to the extent required by the entire controversy doctrine.” In determining whether a subsequent claim should be barred under this doctrine, the court looks at whether the claims arise from related facts or the same transaction or series of transactions.

Here, the Appellate Division noted that there is no dispute that Champagne-Brady’s claims against Gallo and Inaugurato arise from the same set of facts or transaction, namely the auto accident of May 4, 2010, that was the subject of Gallo’s earlier proceeding against Champagne-Brady. Therefore, she was required to proceed with her claim unless an exclusion applied.

She argued to the Appellate Division that there was no adjudication or arbitration of the issues in the first suit because it settled and, hence, it should not be barred by the entire controversy doctrine. However, the court found that the doctrine can apply when a prior action based on the same transaction facts has been tried or settled. Here, Champagne-Brady litigated Gallo’s complaint for one year before it settled. She had ample opportunity to present her own claim. To allow her to present her claim after the first case was litigated for one year would be a waste of judicial resources. Thus, the Appellate Division uphold the dismissal of her lawsuit.

Champagne-Brady argued that she did not know of the status and settlement of the first case. However, her personal counsel should have advised her to join her affirmative claim in defending the initial action or risk its loss altogether. Her remedy, if any, is against her personal counsel.

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About the Author

About the Author:

Ms. Ramos is an Executive Committee Member and Co-Chair of the Litigation Department at Capehart Scatchard, P.A. located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She is an experienced litigator with over 25 years experience handling diverse matters. Practice areas include tort defense, business litigation, estate litigation, tort claims and civil rights defense, construction litigation, insurance coverage, employment litigation, shareholder disputes, and general litigation.

For the years 2020 and 2021, Ms. Ramos was selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© in the practice area of Litigation - Insurance. The attorneys on this list are selected based upon the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area. A complete description of The Best Lawyers in America© methodology can be viewed via their website at: https://www.bestlawyers.com/methodology.

In 2021, Capehart Scatchard and Ms. Ramos received the “Best Law Firm” ranking in the area of Litigation – Insurance (Metro, Tier 3) published by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®. Law firms included on the list are recognized for professional excellence with consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have at least one attorney who has been included in the current edition of Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top five percent of practicing lawyers in the United States. Betsy Ramos (Litigation – Insurance) was recognized for this prestigious award in the 2021 edition. For a description of the “Best Law Firm” selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

“Best Law Firms” is published by Best Lawyers in partnership with U.S. News & World Report. For a description of the selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

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