United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
2015, Defendant SunTrust Banks, Inc. (“SunTrust”)
seized $2, 757.17 of Plaintiff Lawrence Mills' assets.
ECF No. 2 ¶ 6. In response, Plaintiff brought a
successful replevin action in Montgomery County District
Court in which SunTrust agreed to a consent judgment in which
it would release the seized assets. Id. ¶ 9. In
January 2018, Plaintiff filed a second lawsuit in the Circuit
Court for Montgomery County, Maryland alleging that this
seizure violated the Maryland Consumer Protection Act and
Article 4 of the Maryland Commercial Code, and constituted
conversion, breach of contract, and intentional infliction of
emotional distress. He seeks $20, 000 in compensatory
damages, $500, 000 in punitive damages, and $3, 000 in
attorney's fees. Id. ¶ 40. Defendant
removed the action to this Court on March 12, 2018 and filed
a Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 12. No. hearing is necessary.
See Loc. Rule 105.6. Because Plaintiff's suit is
barred by res judicata, Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss is granted.
Fourth Circuit has held that “an affirmative defense
such as res judicata may be raised under Rule
12(b)(6) ‘only if it clearly appears on the face of the
complaint.'” Andrews v. Daw, 201 F.3d 521,
524 (4th Cir. 2000) (quoting Richmond, Fredericksburg
& Potomac R.R. Co. v. Forst, 4 F.3d 244, 250 (4th
Cir. 1993). Furthermore, “when entertaining a motion to
dismiss on the ground of res judicata, a court may
take judicial notice of facts from a prior judicial
proceeding when the res judicata defense raises no
disputed issue of fact.” Id. Plaintiff has not
objected to the inclusion of records from the state court
proceedings, and raises no dispute of fact. Therefore, the
Court's consideration of Defendant's res
judicata defense is appropriate at this time.
judicata bars a party from relitigating a claim that was
decided or could have been decided in a prior suit.
Laurel Sand & Gravel, Inc. v. Wilson, 519 F.3d
156, 161 (4th Cir. 2008). The doctrine is generally governed
by the law of the state in which the judgment was rendered.
Id. at 162. In Maryland, the elements of res
(1) that the parties in the present litigation are the same
or in privity with the parties in the earlier dispute; (2)
that the claim presented in the current action is identical
to the one determined in the prior adjudication; and (3) that
there has been a final judgment on the merits.
Id. For purposes of the second element, a claim is
identical if it could have been litigated in the prior
adjudication. Powell v. Breslin, 430 Md. 52, 64 (Md.
2013) (Res judicata renders the final judgment in
the first case conclusive “as to ‘all matters
which with propriety could have been litigated in the first
suit'”) (quoting Alvey v. Alvey, 225 Md.
386, 390 (Md. 1961)).
all three elements are satisfied. First, Plaintiff does not
dispute that SunTrust Bank, the defendant in the original
replevin action, is a wholly owned subsidiary of SunTrust
Bank, Inc. See ECF No. 12-1 at 6. A corporation and
its wholly owned subsidiary are in privity for purposes of
res judicata. See, e.g., Whitehead v.
Viacom, 233 F.Supp.2d 715, 721 (D. Md. 2002).
nothing would have prevented Plaintiff from bringing these
precise claims against SunTrust Bank in the first action.
Plaintiff has discovered no new factual information about
SunTrust's allegedly tortious behavior and suffered no
new injury. Plaintiff asserts that other causes of action
cannot be brought alongside a replevin action, but that is
not so. See, e.g., Mathis v. Hargrove, 166 Md.App.
286, 294-95 (Md. 2005) (bringing replevin, trespass,
conversion, breach of contract, and other state law claims).
Plaintiff offers no explanation for his failure to bring his
new claims in the original action, and cites no authority
supporting the proposition that he was barred from doing so;
therefore, the second element of res judicata is
there is no dispute that the District Court of Maryland for
Montgomery County issued a final judgment on the merits in
the original action. See ECF No. 12-3 at 2 (entering
judgment in favor of Plaintiff). Because all three
requirements for res judicata are met, Plaintiff is
barred from bringing new claims against SunTrust Bank, Inc.
based on the same seizure of funds as the earlier action.
Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 12, is granted. A separate Order