United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division
BILLY J. WILLIAMS
MATTHEW WHITAKER, ET AL.
MEMORANDUM ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
L. MAZZANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
for consideration the report of the United States Magistrate
Judge in this action, this matter having been heretofore
referred to the Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636. On October 28, 2019, the report of the Magistrate Judge
(Dkt. #29) was entered containing proposed findings of fact
and recommendations that Defendants Matthew Whitaker and the
United States Department of Justice's
(“Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's
Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(6) (Dkt. #16) be granted. Having received the
report of the United States Magistrate Judge, having
considered Plaintiff's Objections (Dkt. #31), and having
conducted a de novo review, the Court is of the opinion that
the findings and conclusions of the Magistrate Judge are
correct and adopts the Magistrate Judge's Report as the
findings and conclusions of the Court.
filed the instant suit on February 1, 2019 against the acting
Attorney General and United States Department of Justice
(Dkt. #1). Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, filed
on February 14, 2019, alleges Defendants have misinterpreted
certain provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42
U.S.C. § 12201(f), subjecting Plaintiff, a person
adversely impacted by smoking, to secondhand smoke in public
places (Dkt. #4). On July 30, 2019, Defendants sought to
dismiss Plaintiff's claims, arguing that such claims were
previously litigated before the United States District Court
for the Northern District of Texas, and are barred by res
judicata (Dkt. #16). The Magistrate Judge recommended
the Court grant Defendants' Motion, finding each of the
elements of res judicata to be satisfied: (1)
Plaintiff sued the same Defendants (and/or their privies) in
both suits; (2) the District Court for the Northern District
of Texas, as well as the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, were
courts of competent jurisdiction; (3) that rendered a final
judgment on the merits of Plaintiff's claim(s); and (4)
despite Plaintiff's citing to a different statutory
section, Plaintiff's claims in the instant action were
“or could have been raised in support of the claim
asserted in the prior action” (Dkt. #29).
November 18, 2019, Plaintiff filed Objections to the Report,
urging that the Magistrate Judge erred because no evidence
exists that fundamental alternation was considered or ruled
upon in Plaintiff's previous case, thus contesting the
fourth element of res judicata. In support of his
Objections, Plaintiff further advances that the Magistrate
Judge's Report is inconsistent with the Parties'
pretrial conference report, inconsistent with the Fifth
Circuit's holding in Anderson v. American Airlines,
Inc., and states that Defendants did not deny
Plaintiff's allegation in the instant suit (Dkt. #31).
Plaintiff further explains “fundamental alteration,
” and advocates Plaintiff's interpretation of the
relevant statutory provisions (Dkt. #31).
TO REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
who files timely written objections to a magistrate
judge's report and recommendation is entitled to a de
novo review of those findings or recommendations to which the
party specifically objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C);
res judicata, a final judgment on the merits of an action
precludes the parties or their privies from relitigating
issues that were or could have been raised in that
action.” Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94,
(1980). “Res judicata insures the finality of judgments
and thereby conserves judicial resources and protects
litigants from multiple lawsuits.” United States v.
Shanbaum, 10 F.3d 305, 310 (5th Cir. 1994). Plaintiff
does not dispute that the first three elements of res
judicata have been met; Plaintiff's Objections
contest only the fourth element-that the same claim or cause
of action must be involved in both cases. As Plaintiff points
out in both his Amended Complaint and his Objections,
Plaintiff previously brought a claim under 42 U.S.C. §
12201(b) and now brings his claim under 42 U.S.C. §
12201(f) (Dkts. #4 at p. 1; #31 at p. 2). Plaintiff avers he
is the master of his own complaint and as such, the
Magistrate Judge is precluded from construing
“Plaintiff's petition to review 42 U.S.C. §
12201(f), fundamental alteration, as an attempt to relitigate
42 U.S.C. § 12201(b)” (Dkt. #31 at p. 2).
argument misses the mark. The Fifth Circuit uses the
“transactional test” in evaluating the fourth
element. Under the transactional test, a prior judgment's
preclusive effect extends to all rights of the plaintiff with
respect to all or any part of the transaction, or series of
connected transactions, out of which the original action
arose. The facts making up a transaction are determined
pragmatically; however, the critical issue is whether the two
actions are based on the same nucleus of operative facts.
Petro-Hunt, L.L.C. v. United States, 365 F.3d 385,
396 (5th Cir. 2004) (quoting In re Southmark Corp.,
163 F.3d 925, 934 (5th Cir. 1999)). While the Fifth
Circuit's opinion in Anderson does support
Plaintiff's argument-that he is the master of his own
complaint-Plaintiff is not excused of the requirement that he
bring all claims based on the same nucleus of operative facts
in the same suit. After comparing Plaintiff's suits, the
Court concurs all the elements of res judicata are met. Both
of Plaintiff's suits are based on his being subjected to
harmful secondhand smoke as a result of Defendants'
interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Further, both of Plaintiffs claims were, or could have been,
raised in his suit before the District Court for the Northern
District of Texas. Plaintiffs Objections are overruled.
considered Plaintiffs Objection (Dkt. #31), the Court adopts
the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (Dkt.
#29) as the findings and conclusions of the Court.
therefore, ORDERED that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
(Dkt. #16) is GRANTED Plaintiffs claims ...