June 22, 2006
A note about case citations. Both Lexis and Westlaw have come up with a uniform citation form for cases: each decision is given a number, and the format is [year] ohio [number]. For example, the citation for the case that I refer to in this post is 2006 ohio 2879. It works for both case services. Most of the Ohio cases that I have linked here show that cite, so if you want to get fuller treatment, you can plug that number into either case law service and get the case in that format, with headnotes and all. There are Supreme Court cases using that format going back to the early 90's, but there are very few appellate court cases prior to 2001. One other thing: if you're citing a case in a brief and can, use that designation instead of the Westlaw or Lexis cite.
Now, on to the law...
From the Coulda Woulda Shoulda Department: A reminder in Watson v. Parma Community Gen. Hospital that res judicata bars not only claims that have been litigated, but claims that could have been raised, but weren't. The plaintiff worked in the Radiation Safety Program at the hospital, and a coworker there told him that she was pregnant. He made inquiries on her behalf, but when he refused to disclose her identity, he was fired. He sued in Federal court under Title VII, and also brought a pendent state claim under ORC 4111.02. The Federal court granted summary judgment on both.
Watson then filed an action under the "whistle blower" statute in common pleas court. The court affirmed the grant of summary judgment on res judicata grounds, finding that Watson could have included that claim in Federal court, and refusing to engage in the "speculative gymnastics" of determining whether the Federal court would have exercised pendent jurisdiction over that claim as well. The court noted that this "is not a case where the trial court decided the federal case on the merits and dismissed the pending state claim without prejudice in order for the plaintiff to refile in state court."
That doesn't always make a difference, though. Four years earlier, in Abram v. Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, the U.S. district court had dismissed the plaintiff's Federal claim for employment discrimination, but had declined to exercise jurisdiction over the state claims. The court nonetheless found that the refiled state action was barred by res judicata because of the state law so closely tracked Federal law in this area that "the same parties were litigating the same set of facts, issues, and causes of action arising out of the same circumstances and occurrences."