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Decision Lydia Suliveres v. Durham School Service

Date: 02/22/2010
Organization: Department of Industrial Accidents
Docket Number: DIA Board No. 036667-04
Location: Boston
  • Employee: Lydia Suliveres
  • Employer: Durham School Service
  • Insurer: U. S. F. & G.

COSTIGAN, J. Based on the principle of res judicata,2  the administrative judge denied and dismissed the employee's second claim for benefits for a left wrist carpal tunnel syndrome.3  Seeing no merit in the employee's appeal, we affirm the judge's decision.

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1  Administrative Law Judge Koziol recused herself from the panel because she had presided, as an administrative judge, at the 2005 conference on the employee's original claim.

2  Res judicata is defined as,

[a] matter adjudged; a thing judicially acted upon or decided; a thing or matter settled by judgment. Rule that a final judgment rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction on the merits is conclusive as to the rights of the parties and their privies, and, as to them, constitutes an absolute bar to a subsequent action involving the same claim, demand or cause of action, [Citation omitted.] And to be applicable, requires identity in thing sued for as well as identity of cause of action, of persons and parties to action, and of quality in persons for or against whom claim is made. The sum and substance of the whole rule is that a matter once judicially decided is finally decided. [Citation omitted.]

Black's Law Dictionary, 1305-1306 (6th ed. 1990).

"Res judicata" bars relitigation of the same cause of action between the same parties where there is a prior judgment, whereas "collateral estoppel" bars relitigation of a particular issue or determinative fact.

Id. at 1306. "The term 'res judicata' describes doctrines by which a judgment has a binding effect in each future actions. It comprises both claim preclusion (also known as 'merger' and 'bar') and issue preclusion (also known as "collateral estoppel"). Jarosz v. Palmer, 436 Mass. 526, 530 n.3 (2002). Because the original litigation in this case involved more than the left carpal tunnel syndrome claim, see footnote 5 infra, we think collateral estoppel was the more accurate defense to be raised by the insurer, and the more accurate bar to be applied by the judge to the employee's claim in the second round of litigation. This distinction, however, does not alter our analysis of the employee's appeal.

3  The board file reflects the employee's present claim, filed in January 2007, alleged the injury to be "Carpal tunnel - right hand and right side." In the temporary conference memorandum submitted at the July 5, 2007 conference, the "Nature and Cause of Injury" was typed as "Carpel [sic] tunnel both hands; right side," but amended in writing to read "Carpel [sic] tunnel L[eft] hand/wrist" only. See Rizzo v. MBTA, 16 Mass. Workers' Comp. Rep. 160, 161 n.3 (2002)(judicial notice of documents in board file permissible).