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Styles v. Air Serve Corp

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

April 24, 2018

TEEL S. STYLES, Plaintiff,
v.
AIR SERVE CORPORATION, Defendant.

          FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          DAVID L. HORAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This pro se employment-related action filed by Plaintiff Teel S. Styles has been referred to the undersigned United States magistrate judge for screening under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and a standing order of reference from United States District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater. The undersigned enters these findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendation that the Court should dismiss this duplicative action with prejudice as malicious.

         Applicable Background

         Styles filed this action on March 22, 2018. See Dkt. No. 3. The next day, the undersigned granted Styles's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”), see Dkt. Nos. 4 & 5, and, consistent with the obligation to screen actions filed IFP, issued a notice of deficiency (the “NOD”) requiring that Styles file an amended complaint on a court-provided form no later than April 23, 2018, see Dkt. No. 6. The NOD further informed Styles that

[a] separate but related deficiency appears to plague [the] new complaint. On January 2, 2018, the Court dismissed her Title VII claims against Defendant Air Serve Corporation with prejudice as barred by the applicable statute of limitations, after Styles failed to file an amended complaint asserting her right to equitable tolling of that statute. See Styles v. Air Serve Corp., No. 3:17-cv-2201-K-BN, Dkt. No. 13 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 2, 2018); see also Styles v. Air Serve Corp., No. 3:17-cv-2201-K-BN, 2017 WL 5891801 (N.D. Tex. Oct. 24, 2017), rec. accepted, 2017 WL 5749666 (N.D. Tex. Nov. 27, 2017). The [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”)] right-to-sue letter attached to the complaint in this action matches the one Styles filed in the previous action. Compare Dkt. No. 3 at 2, with Styles, 2017 WL 5891801, at *1. It appears therefore that this action may be subject to dismissal (under Section 1915(e)(2)(B)) based on res judicata.

Id. at 2-3. Styles filed an amended complaint, as ordered, on April 23, 2018. See Dkt. No. 7.

         Legal Standards and Analysis

          A district court is required to screen a civil action filed IFP and may summarily dismiss that action if it concludes, for example, that the action “is frivolous or malicious.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i).

         Where the claims presented in a case “are duplicative of claims already asserted and dismissed in [a] previous case, ” those claims “must be dismissed as malicious” or, alternatively, because they “are also barred by the doctrine of res judicata, ... for failure to state a claim.” Yarborough v. Sheriff, Tarrant Cty., Tex., No. 4:11-cv-207-Y, 2011 WL 4736302, at *1-*2 (N.D. Tex. Oct. 6, 2011) (citing Bailey v. Johnson, 846 F.2d 1019, 1021 (5th Cir. 1988) (“[W]e have dismissed an appeal as frivolous because it involved a duplicative action arising from the same series of events and alleging many of the same facts as an earlier suit, concluding that repetitious litigation of virtually identical causes of action is subject to dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915[(e)] as malicious.” (citations and internal quotation marks omitted)); Brown v. Thomas, No. 3:02-cv-673-M, 2002 WL 31757616, at *3-*4 (N.D. Tex. Dec. 3, 2002) (dismissing as duplicative even though earlier case was dismissed without reaching its merits); see also Silva v. Stickney, No. 3:03-cv-2279-D, 2005 WL 2445433, at *4 (N.D. Tex. Sept. 30, 2005) (“Courts may appropriately dismiss an in forma pauperis action as frivolous, when the action ‘seek[s] to relitigate claims which allege substantially the same facts arising from a common series of events which have already been unsuccessfully litigated by the IFP plaintiff.' Such dismissal is predicated on principles of res judicata.” (quoting Wilson v. Lynaugh, 878 F.2d 846, 850 (5th Cir. 1989); citing Pittman v. Moore, 980 F.2d 994, 994 (5th Cir. 1993))).

         “[D]eclaring that a successive in forma pauperis suit is ‘malicious' ... insures that the plaintiff obtains one bite at the litigation apple - but not more.” Brown v. Tex. Bd. of Nursing, 554 Fed.Appx. 268, 269 (5th Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (quoting Pittman, 980 F.2d at 995; quotation modified).

         As pointed out in the NOD, this action appears to assert claims based on a charge of discrimination Styles filed with the EEOC on April 17, 2017. See Dkt. No. 7 at 12-15. Styles received a right-to-sue letter as a result of that charge on April 20, 2017. See Id. at 16. The same right-to-sue letter supported the previous action filed in this Court. Compare Dkt. No. 3 at 2, with Styles, 2017 WL 5891801, at *1.

The rule of res judicata, or claim preclusion, “bars the litigation of claims that either have been litigated or should have been raised in an earlier suit.” Test Masters Educ. Servs., Inc. v. Singh, 428 F.3d 559, 571 (5th Cir. 2005). In the Fifth Circuit, res judicata is appropriate if four conditions are met: (1) the parties in the subsequent action are identical to, or in privity with, the parties in the prior action; (2) the judgment in the prior case was rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction; (3) there has been a final judgment on the merits; and (4) the same claim or cause of action is involved in both suits. Id., see also Ellis v. Amex Life Ins. Co., 211 F.3d 935, 937 (5th Cir. 2000).

Chalmers v. City of Dallas, No. 3:14-cv-36-N, 2014 WL 7174289, at *6 (N.D. Tex. Dec. 16, 2014).

         The first three conditions are easily met here - as between the two actions, the parties are identical, and this Court entered a final judgment dismissing the prior case as time-barred. See Carter v. Nicholson, No. 07-20169, 2007 WL 3316086, at *2 (5th Cir. Nov. 8, 2007) (per curiam) (“There is ... no doubt that the dismissal of a claim as time-barred is a final judgment on the merits for res judicata purposes.” (citing Nilsen v. City of Moss Point, 701 F.2d 556, 561 (5th Cir. 1993) (en banc) (‚ÄúDismissals for want of ...


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