United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. Grimm United States District Judge
their one-count 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action in this Court
stemming from the revocation of their liquor license for
violation of one of the terms under which it was granted,
Plaintiffs Sutasinee Thana, Michael James Lohman, and Thai
Seafood & Grill, Inc., trading as Thai Palace & Thai
Palace & Lounge (“Thai Palace”) seek
declaratory and injunctive relief as well as compensatory
damages on the basis that the term unconstitutionally
restricted their First Amendment rights to freedom of
speech. Compl., ECF No. 1; Pls.' Opp'n 2,
ECF No. 43; Defs.' Mem. 3, 19, ECF No. 38-1. In support
of their pending Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 38, Defendants
Board of License Commissioners for Charles County, Maryland
(the “Board”); Pamela Smith, Chair; and Board
members Guy Black, Tomasina Coates, Steven Lowe, and William
Young argue that res judicata bars Plaintiffs'
claims for declaratory and injunctive relief, while
collateral estoppel bars Plaintiffs' claims for
compensatory damages. Defs.' Mem. 1, 19.
insist that “the doctrines of res judicata and
collateral estoppel do not bar Thai Palace's 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 claim for compensatory damages for violation of
its free speech rights guaranteed by the First
Amendment.” Pls.' Opp'n 3; see also
Id. at 11 (“Thai Palace's 42 U.S.C. §
1983 claim for compensatory damages for violation of its free
speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment is not
precluded by the doctrine of res judicata.”).
They do not address the effects of either preclusion doctrine
on their declaratory and injunctive relief claims, and
Defendants contend that they have abandoned them. The
“court nevertheless has an obligation to review the
motion[ ] to ensure that dismissal is proper.”
Stevenson v. City of Seat Pleasant, Md., 743 F.3d
411, 416 n. 3 (4th Cir. 2014); see Nance v. Md. Dep't
of Juvenile Servs., No. PWG-14-1434, 2015 WL 1210654, at
*4 (D. Md. Mar. 16, 2015). Having reviewed the parties'
briefings, ECF Nos. 38-1, 43, 45, I find that a hearing is
not necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. Because res
judicata bars Plaintiffs' claims for declaratory and
injunctive relief, and collateral estoppel bars Plaintiffs
from arguing that they did not waive their claim for
compensatory damages, I will grant Defendants' motion and
dismiss this case.
move to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Under this
Rule, Plaintiffs' Complaint is subject to dismissal if it
“fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A complaint must
contain “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and must state “a plausible claim
for relief, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678-79 (2009). “A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678. Rule 12(b)(6)'s purpose “is to test the
sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests
surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the
applicability of defenses.” Velencia v.
Drezhlo, No. RDB-12-237, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (D. Md.
Dec. 13, 2012) (quoting Presley v. City of
Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006)). If
an affirmative defense “clearly appears on the face of
the complaint, ” however, the Court may rule on that
defense when considering a motion to dismiss. Kalos v.
Centennial Sur. Assocs., No. CCB-12-1532, 2012 WL
6210117, at *2 (D. Md. Dec. 12, 2012) (quoting Andrews v.
Daw, 201 F.3d 521, 524 n. 1 (4th Cir. 2000) (citation
and quotation marks omitted)). Two such affirmative defenses
are res judicata, also known as claim preclusion,
and collateral estoppel, also known as issue preclusion.
judicata “bars a party from suing on a claim that
has already been litigated to a final judgment by that party
or such party's privies and precludes the assertion by
such parties of any legal theory, cause of action, or defense
which could have been asserted in that action.”
Reid v. New Century Mortg. Corp., No. AW-12-2083,
2012 WL 6562887, at *3 (D. Md. Dec. 13, 2012) (quoting
Ohio Valley Envtl. Coal. v. Aracoma Coal Co., 556
F.3d 177, 210 (4th Cir. 2009)) (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). When considering this defense,
“a court may take judicial notice of facts from a prior
judicial proceeding when the res judicata defense
raises no disputed issue of fact.” Kalos, 2012
WL 6210117, at *2 (quoting Andrews, 201 F.3d at 524
n.1). Res judicata provides grounds for dismissal if
a defendant establishes “(1) a judgment on the merits
in a prior suit resolving (2) claims by the same parties or
their privies, and (3) a subsequent suit based on the same
cause of action.” Ohio Valley Envtl. Coal. v.
Aracoma Coal Co., 556 F.3d 177, 210 (4th Cir.
2009) (quoting Aliff v. Joy Mfg. Co., 914 F.2d 39,
42 (4th Cir. 1990)). Even if the plaintiff's legal theory
differed in the earlier dispute, the doctrine of res
judicata still bars the current action, provided
that “the second suit ‘arises out of the same
transaction or series of transactions as the claim resolved
by the prior judgment.'” Id. (quoting
Aliff, 914 F.2d at 42). Further,
The preclusive [e]ffect of a prior judgment extends beyond
claims or defenses actually presented in previous litigation,
for “[n]ot only does res judicata bar claims
that were raised and fully litigated, it prevents litigation
of all grounds for, or defenses to, recovery that were
previously available to the parties, regardless of whether
they were asserted or determined in the prior
proceeding.” Peugeot Motors of America, Inc. v.
Eastern Auto Distributors, Inc., 892 F.2d 355, 359 (4th
Cir. 1989), quoting Brown v. Felsen, 442 U.S. 127,
131 (1979) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Meekins v. United Transp. Union, 946 F.2d 1054, 1057
(4th Cir. 1991).
estoppel is “‘based upon the judicial policy that
the losing litigant deserves no rematch after a defeat fairly
suffered, in adversarial proceedings, on issues raised . . .
.'” Grady Mgmt., Inc. v. Epps, 98 A.3d
457, 472 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 2014) (citation omitted). The
doctrine bars relitigation of an issue if a defendant
demonstrates that (1) “the issue decided in the prior
adjudication [was] identical with the one presented in the
action in question”; (2) “there [was] a final
judgment on the merits”; (3) “the party against
whom the plea is asserted [was] a party or in privity with a
party to the prior adjudication”; and (4) “the
party against whom the plea is asserted [was] given a fair
opportunity to be heard on the issue.” Garrity v.
Md. State Bd. of Plumbing, 135 A.3d 452, 459 (Md. 2016)
(quoting Colandrea v. Wilde Lake Cmty. Assoc., 761
A.2d 899 (Md. 2000)). If all issues raised in the subsequent
suit are identical to the issues presented in the previous
suit, then dismissal is appropriate. E.g.,
Graves v. OneWest Bank, FSB, No. PWG-14-1995, 2015
WL 2452418, at *1 (D. Md. May 20, 2015).
noted, Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief, as
well as compensatory damages. Res judicata may bar
the claims for injunctive and declaratory relief, but it
cannot bar claims for damages where, as here, those claims
“could not have been asserted in the circuit court
action reviewing the initial [proceeding before an
administrative board].” Esslinger v. Baltimore
City, 622 A.2d 774, 783 (Md. Ct. Spec. App.1993).
Collateral estoppel, however, may bar the claim for
compensatory damages. Id. I will address each
preclusion doctrine in turn.
Final judgment on the merits
argue that the Court of Special Appeals's decision
affirming the decision of the Circuit Court for Charles
County, which affirmed the decision of the Board of License
Commissioners for Charles County revoking Plaintiffs'
liquor license, “constitutes a final judgment on the
merits sufficient to implicate the doctrine of claim
preclusion.” Defs.' Mem. 20, ECF No. 38-1; see ...