United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. Grimm, United States District Judge
Alfred Abunaw visited a branch of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (the
“Bank”) on business on September 12,
2013. Compl. ¶¶ 5, 12, ECF No. 1.
According to Abunaw, Defendant Pedro Campos, the branch
manager, called the police and falsely reported that Abunaw
had refused to leave when asked. Id. ¶ 15. As a
result, he claims, police officers asked him to step outside
of the bank, and he was “unlawfully and brutally”
arrested, briefly imprisoned, and falsely charged with
disorderly conduct. Id. at 4, ¶¶ 17-27. He
also claims that the police unlawfully searched his car while
he was in jail. Id. ¶ 24. At trial on the
ensuing charge, Abunaw agreed to community service, and his
case was placed on the stet docket. Id. ¶¶
36-43. He later requested that his case be reopened.
Id. ¶ 50. When he went to court for trial, he
saw Campos and the prosecutors leave the courtroom, and then
he learned that the case against him had been dismissed.
Id. ¶¶ 51-54.
filed Abunaw v. Prince George's Corrections
Dep't, Civil Action No. DKC-13-2746
(“Abunaw I”), in this Court in 2013,
bringing claims against the Prince George's Police
Department and Department of Corrections (construed as claims
against Prince George's County (the
“County”)), as well as claims against Officers
Perret and Rustin. ECF Nos. 1 & 3 in Abunaw I.
His claims against the officers were dismissed for failure to
comply with an order to serve them properly. ECF No. 30 in
Abunaw I. Abunaw's claims against the County
were dismissed for failure to state a
Monell claim. ECF No. 35 in Abunaw I. He
sought leave to amend to add Commissioner Brian Lofton (the
“Commissioner”) as a defendant, but his request
was denied as frivolous because he tried to claim that the
Commissioner was part of a conspiracy, without providing
sufficient factual support. ECF Nos. 29 & 35 in
Abunaw I. Abunaw also sought leave to amend his
pleadings to include claims against the Bank and Campos, but
the Court denied his motion to amend as futile because, while
Abunaw did not identify his cause of action, “the only
apparent candidate [was] 42 U.S.C. § 1981, ” and
he could not state a claim pursuant to § 1981. ECF Nos.
9 & 10 in Abunaw I.
on September 6, 2016, he filed this action (pro se)
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, unambiguously labeling it
as a “Refiling” of Abunaw I. ECF No. 1.
He named Campos; Officers Perret and Rustin; “Other
Unknown P.G. County Officers”; “Other Unknown
P.G. County Corrections Officers”; the Commissioner;
the Prince George's County Police Department; the Prince
George's Corrections Department; the County; and the Bank as
Defendants. Id. He alleges false arrest, use of
excessive force, unauthorized search, false imprisonment, and
malicious prosecution, all in violation of § 1983.
Commissioner, the Bank, the County, and Campos each filed a
Motion to Dismiss and Memorandum in Support. ECF Nos. 22,
22-1 (Commissioner's Mot. & Mem.); ECF Nos. 24, 24-1
(the Bank's Mot. & Mem.); ECF Nos. 25, 25-1
(Campos's Mot. & Mem.); ECF Nos. 27, 27-1 (the
County's Mot. & Mem.). Abunaw filed a Response to
Defendants' Motions to Dismiss Complaint and Motion for
Leave to File Amended Complaint. ECF No. 33. The County, the
Bank, and Campos filed replies. ECF No. 35 (the County's
Reply), ECF No. 36 (the Bank and Campos's Reply). A
hearing is not necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. Because
res judicata bars the claims Abunaw asserts in this
case, I will grant Defendants' motions and dismiss this
case. His Motion to Amend is denied as futile.
County, the Bank, and Campos move to dismiss pursuant to Rule
12(b)(6), under which Abunaw's pleadings are subject to
dismissal if they “fail[ ] to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A
pleading 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 [claimant] pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the [opposing party] 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 [claim] 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 [pleading], ”
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
such affirmative defense is res judicata, or claim
preclusion, and the County asserts this defense.
Additionally, this Court may dismiss an action sua
sponte under the doctrine of res judicata if it
“is on notice that the issues presented in a suit have
been previously decided.” Roberts v. Thrasher,
No. ELH-15-1906, 2015 WL 4485477, at *2 (D. Md. July 20,
2015) (quoting Arizona v. California, 530 U.S. 392,
413 (2000) (citation and citation marks omitted)). I am aware
of Judge Chasanow's rulings dismissing Abunaw's
claims and denying his motions to amend in Abunaw I,
an action based on the same incident and in which Abunaw
named the County and Officers Perret and Rustin as defendants
and sought leave to amend to add the Commissioner, the Bank,
and Campos as defendants. Compl. 1, ECF No. 1 in Abunaw
I; Am. Compl. 1, ECF No. 3 in Abunaw I; Mots.
to Am., ECF Nos. 9 & 29 in Abunaw I. Therefore,
it is appropriate to consider this doctrine with regard to
all claims. See Roberts, 2015 WL 4485477, at *2;
Innocent v. Bank of New York Mellon, No.
PWG-16-1132, 2016 WL 8273956, at *1 (D. Md. Apr. 25, 2016)
(citing Roberts), aff'd sub nom. Innocent v.
The Bank of New York Mellon, 668 Fed. App'x 467 (4th
as here, a party raises the defense of res judicata
in federal court with regard to a prior judgment issued by a
federal court exercising federal question jurisdiction,
federal common law governs the preclusive effect of the prior
federal court judgment. Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U.S.
880, 891 (2008). Under federal law, res 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)). Through this authority, the Court
can protect “the important judicial interest in
avoiding resolution of an issue that the court has already
decided.” Roberts, 2015 WL 4485477, at *2
(quoting Eriline Co. S.A. v. Johnson, 440 F.3d 648,
655 (4th Cir. 2006)).
judicata provides grounds for dismissal if there was
“(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., 556 F.3d at 210 (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, res judicata still may bar 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). Significantly, “a plaintiff cannot
avoid the bar of res judicata by bringing in
additional [defendants].” Rout v. First Sav. Mortg.
Corp., No. RWT-11-505, 2011 WL 3820523, at *2 (D. Md.
Aug. 26, 2011) (quoting Csabai v. Martek Biosciences
Corp., No. CCB-11-316, 2011 WL 1831777, at *3 (D. Md.
May 12, 2011) (internal quotation marks and citations
omitted) (emendation in Csabai); Hodge v.
Calvert Cnty., No. PJM-09-2252, 2009 WL 2884928, at *3
n.4 (D. Md. Sept. 4, 2009) (“Plaintiffs cannot avoid
the bar of res judicata simply by adding new
defendants to the second suit.”), aff'd,
379 Fed. App'x 298 (4th Cir. 2010); Bond v.
Blum, No. JFM-07-1385, 2007 WL 5921363, at *2 (D. Md.
June 25, 2007), aff'd, 294 Fed. App'x 70
(4th Cir. 2008).
does not dispute that he is the same party who made claims in
Abunaw I. Further, the County and Officers Perret
and Rustin were defendants in Abunaw I, and Abunaw
sought to add the Commissioner, the Bank and Campos as
defendants in that litigation. Neither the inclusion of the
Commissioner, the Bank and Campos as Defendants in this case,
nor the addition of unnamed officers as defendants bars the
application of res judicata. See Rout, 2011
WL 3820523, at *2; Csabai, 2011 WL 1831777, at *3;
Hodge, 2009 WL 2884928, at *3 n.4. Thus, the element
“claims by the same parties or their privies” is
present. See Ohio Valley Envtl. Coal., 556 F.3d at
210; Aliff, 914 F.2d at 42.
also does not dispute that this suit is based on the same
cause of action as the first suit: § 1983. And, insofar
as the Court construed his proposed claims against the Bank
and Campos in Abunaw I as § 1981 claims, the
claims here against the Bank and Campos still “arise
out of the same transaction or series of transactions as the
claim[s] resolved by the prior judgment” in Abunaw
I. See Ohio Valley Envtl. Coal., 556 F.3d at
210; Aliff, 914 F.2d at 42; Pl.'s Opp'n
& Mot. to Am. 10 (acknowledging that “[t]he facts