Res Judicata Exception Sustained

The Second Circuit Court of Appeal recently affirmed a workers’ compensation judge’s decision sustaining an exception of res judicata.  The claimant sustained an injury in 1993.  She reached a settlement agreement with her employer in 2012, which was approved, thereby relinquishing the employer from further liability for any claims arising out of the 1993 accident.

In 2014, the claimant filed the instant claim for benefits, alleging the same work-related accident that was the subject of the settled claim.  Her employer raised the exception of res judicata, contending that the 2012 settlement precluded the claimant from re-litigating disputes and issues covered by the settlement.  The exception was sustained and the claimant appealed, arguing that the workers’ compensation judge erred in sustaining the exception.

While the doctrine of res judicata is ordinarily premised on a final judgment on the merits, it also applies where the opposing parties have entered into a compromise or settlement of a disputed matter.  In the instant matter, the claimant alleged a new injury related to the 1993 accident, but failed to show any evidence that her new claim was separate and distinct from the claim she settled in 2012.  The Court of Appeal found that the workers’ compensation judge was not manifestly erroneous in finding that the latest claim involved the same accident and facts that were the subject of the earlier dispute that was dismissed with prejudice upon approval of the settlement, and affirmed the decision.

Toliver v. Entergy Services, Inc.