Sunday, November 24, 2013

McConnell v. Travelers Indemnity Co. case brief

McConnell v. Travelers Indemnity Co. case brief summary
346 F.2d 219 (5th Cir. 1965)

Plaintiff husband appealed the summary judgment granted to defendant insurer by a federal district court in his tort action to recover for his personal injuries because the trial court found that the previous dismissal of a related matter with prejudice by a state court constituted res judicata.

Plaintiff husband and his wife were injured in an automobile accident. His wife brought an action in state court to recover for her personal injuries. Plaintiff joined that suit to recover the medical expenses incurred by his wife. He also commenced a federal action, which sought to recover for his personal injuries and medical expenses. At his request, the state court dismissed his claim for the medical expenses with prejudice. The federal trial court granted defendant insurer's motion for summary judgment because it found that the state court dismissal was res judicata.


  • On appeal, the court affirmed. 
  • The court noted that under Louisiana community property law, a husband's claim for personal injuries were community property, as were the medical expenses incurred by either spouse. 
  • Furthermore, the splitting of tort claims was forbidden and the effect of a split was the waiver of the right to recover the excess. 
  • Moreover, the dismissal of an action with prejudice was equivalent to a final judgment, which became definitive when no appeal was filed within the time allowed for such action. 
  • Thus, the state court dismissal was a definitive judgment that constituted res judicata.

The court affirmed the trial court's judgment, which found that the doctrine of res judicata barred plaintiff husband's tort action. The court found that a state court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim for medical expenses with prejudice was a definitive judgment, which was res judicata because Louisiana law prohibited the splitting of causes of action.

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