United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
May 7, 2004.
MAMIE SANDERS, Plaintiff,
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY and DANIEL LAFAVE, Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES NORGLE, District Judge
OPINION AND ORDER
Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint
Defendants assert that Plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed based on
res judicata and her failure to satisfy a previous court order in case 98
C 3275, which ordered Plaintiff to pay attorney fees and costs. For the
following reasons Defendants' motion is granted.
Pro Se Plaintiff, Mamie Sanders, initially worked for Chicago and North
Western Transportation Company, which was later purchased by Union
Pacific Railroad Company, the Defendant ("Railroad"). While employed with
the Railroad, Plaintiff filed a claim for disability benefits. Plaintiff
asserted that she had carpal tunnel syndrome and various other stress
related ailments. Plaintiff was awarded and is still receiving disability
Sanders is not your ordinary pro se litigant. Sanders has filed no less
than fifteen (15) causes of actions in various courts in the past
seventeen years. Sanders has filed six actions in state court, 87 L
06527, 89 L 13557, 97 L 9830, 98 L 012849, 02 L 000938, 04 L 000778; six cases in bankruptcy court, 90 B 22520, 96 B 02727, 97 B
16994, 97 B 01774, 98 B 35499, 99 B 14205; and three actions in federal
court, 95 C 7092, 98 C 3275, 03 C 7049; not to mention the various
appeals she has filed after losing those cases, Sanders has proven herself
to be a proficient, vexatious litigator. Almost every action she has
filed has been against the Railroad or the attorneys who previously
represented her in suing the Railroad, In this action, Sanders is
attempting to again sue Union Pacific Railroad Company and additionally
its attorney, Daniel LaFave. "`[A]t some point, our solicitous treatment
of pro se litigants must be trumped by our concern with the rights of
Defendants to be free of scandalous, repetitive, and baseless claims that
undoubtedly drain their financial and emotional resources.'" Sato v.
Plunkett, 154 F.R.D. 189, 192 (N.D.Ill. 1994) (quoting Sato v. Kwasny,
1993 U.S.Dist. LEXIS 15693 at *10 (Nov. 5, 1993)).
In this instance, Sanders is merely attempting to re-litigate claims
that have been previously ruled upon in cases 97 L 9830 and 98 C 3275.
Sanders' continuous, litigious assault on Defendants, with utter
disregard to previous rulings made by the court, must come to an end.
Sanders continues to assert the same untenable claims against Defendant.
Sanders contends that she is not merely asserting the same claims, but
that she has new found evidence that should allow her claims to proceed.
Additionally, Sanders now claims that Union Pacific's attorney Daniel
LaFave also violated her rights.
The couching of an old claim as something new or newly discovered, will
not serve to obfuscate the basic legal principle of res judicata, "Res
judicata applies where: (1) a final judgment on the merits was rendered
by a court of competent jurisdiction; (2) there is an identity of causes
of action; and (3) there is an identity of the parties or their privies."
Licari v. City of Chicago, 298 F.3d 664, 666 (7th Cir. 2002); Central
States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pen. Fund v. Hunt Truck Lines, Inc., 296 F.3d 624, 628
(7th Cir. 2002). Res judicata is limited to cases where the plaintiff had
a full and fair opportunity to litigate her claim in the previous
proceeding. See Licari, 298 F.3d at 666-67. "[R]es judicata [also] applies
when the precluded claims `could and should have been brought in the
earlier litigation.'" In re Kroner, 953 F.2d 319-320 (7th Cir. 1992)
(citing Howell Hydrocarbons v. Adams, 897 F.2d 183, 188 (5th Cir. 1990);
Barnett v. Stern, 909 F.2d 973, 978 n.7 (7th Cir. 1990)(quoting D-1
Enters., Inc. v. Commercial State Bank, 864 F.2d 36, 38 (5th Cir.
Previously, a final and appealable judgment was rendered upon Sanders'
claims in the state court. On June 20, 2002, after five years of
litigation, Sanders' 97 L 9830 complaint was dismissed with prejudice.
Sanders was provided a full and fair opportunity to litigate her claims
in that proceeding, A brief review of Plaintiff's Complaint shows that
she is merely making a veiled attempt to re-plead, and reargue facts that
were previously decided in the state court, 97 L 9830. The first eight
(8) paragraphs of Sanders complaint are almost verbatim from the previous
litigation and are therefore dismissed based on Res Judicata. Compare
Defs' Reply to Plt.'s Resp. with Defs.'Motion to Dismiss Ex. E and G.
Additionally, a final and appealable judgment was rendered in the
Federal court. On September 28, 2001, the Honorable District Court Judge
Leinenweber granted Defendant Union Pacific Railroad's Motion for Summary
Judgment in case 98 C 3275, finding Sanders claims to be without merit or
factual basis. See Sanders v. Union Pacific Railroad, No 98 C 3275, 2001
WL 1230549 (N.D.Ill. 2001). A comparison between the 98 C 3275 complaint
and the instant complaint, paragraphs 9 through 21, depicts another
attempt to bring a cause of action against Union Pacific for intentional
infliction of emotional distress. In case 98 C 3275, Sanders sued the Railroad alleging
intentional infliction of emotional distress, along with a slue of other
allegations. Presently, Sanders asserts that the Railroad and Mr.
LaFave, the Railroad's attorney, have been harassing her relentlessly
which has caused physical and emotional harm. Sanders' claims are again
an attempt to re-litigate claims that were previously determined by
another court. Sanders alleges that "Union Pacific, through its agent,
Daniel LaFave" has caused her undue hardship, emotional distress, and
harassment by its investigation into her disability either through
correspondence or visual observation. See Plt.'s Compl. ¶ 9-21. Sanders
made similar statements in her previous action, 98 C 3275. The District
Court previously determined that Sanders' had no basis for bringing
claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress. See Sanders, No
98 C 3275, 2001 WL 1230549 (N.D. Ill. 2001). Furthermore, to the extent
that Sanders did not assert any such claim for intentional infliction for
emotional distress in her previous complaint, she had the opportunity to
do so. Therefore, Sanders' claims intentional infliction of emotional
distress are also excluded on the basis of Res Judicata. "Sanders may be
unhappy that Union Pacific monitors its employees for abuse of its
medical leave policies, but `not everything that makes an employee
unhappy is an actionable adverse action.'" Sanders, No 98 C 3275, 2001 WL
1230549, *3 (N.D.Ill. 2001) (quoting Smart v. Ball State Univ.,
89 F.3d 437, 441 (7th Cir. 1996)).
In summary, Sanders' claims are merely a recantation of her previous
assertions and are therefore barred. The mere naming of an additional
party, Daniel LaFave, the Railroad's attorney does not revive or alter
Sanders' claims. Therefore, Sanders' complaint is dismissed with
prejudice based on the doctrine of res Judicata. Additionally, the court finds that Sanders' failure to pay the awarded
fees and costs of previous litigation, i.e. 98 C 3275, is inexcusable.
Sanders contends that she is not required to abide by the District
Court's order to pay fees and costs for two reasons. First, Sanders
contends that the court improvidently entered the order based on false
statements made by the defendant relating to a settlement award. The
District Court's order does not make any reference to a settlement, or
condition the payment of fees and costs on settlement of an unrelated
case. Furthermore, Sanders never challenged the District Court's order
awarding fees and costs before the presiding judge. Sanders will not be
heard to argue over two and half years later, before a different judge,
that the award was unjustified.
Second, Sanders asserts that she should not have to pay the court
ordered fees and costs because she was allowed to proceed in that
action, in forma pauperis, "[A]uthorization to proceed in forma pauperis
under § 1915 does no more than excuse prepayment costs. It does not
authorize any person to continue in a course of vexatious litigation
without regard to the losses imposed on others (including the judicial
system). By postponing the reckoning of costs to the end of the case, §
1915 gives an impoverished litigant one free bite at the apple, not
more." Sato v. Plunkett, 154 F.R.D at 193 (internal quotation omitted).
Therefore, the court finds Sanders' second basis for noncompliance with
the District Court's order to pay attorney fees and costs is without
Sanders continuous, onslaught against Union Pacific Railroad and its
agents must come to an end. Although the court refrains from issuing
sanctions at this time, Sanders should note that her status as a pro se
litigant does not give her "an unfettered licence to wage an endless
campaign of harassment . . . or to abuse the judicial process." Chapman Ill v. Charles Schwab & Co., No. 01 C 9697, 2002 WL 818300, * 13
(N.D.Ill 2002) (quoting Pfeifer v. Valukas, 117 F.R.D. 420, 423
(N.D.Ill. 1987)). If Sanders continues to bring merit less claims, or
claims barred by the doctrine of res judicata against Union Pacific and
its agents, the court will strongly consider imposing heavy sanctions to
discourage this vexatious course of litigation.
For the abovementioned reasons, Plaintiff, Mamie Sanders' Complaint is
dismissed with prejudice. It is so ordered.
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