Bradford v. Gauthier, Houghtaling & Williams, LLP et al
ORDER AND REASONS granting 14 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. This matter is dismissed with prejudice. Signed by Judge Jane Triche Milazzo. (ecm)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
& WILLIAMS, LLP ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 14). For the
following reasons, the Motion is GRANTED.
From the outset, this matter has struck the Court with a considerable
case of déjà vu. Plaintiff Narissa Bradford initially filed an action against
Defendants James Williams and Gauthier, Houghtaling, & Williams, LLP
(“GHW”) in this Court on April 22, 2013 (“the First Litigation”). 1
action, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, alleged that the Defendants had negligently
represented her in an ongoing legal proceeding in Italy. On September 8, 2014,
Bradford v. Gauthier, Houghtaling & Williams, et al., No. 13-cv-2407 (E.D. La. April
this Court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, holding that
Plaintiff had failed to establish a standard of care by which Defendants’
conduct should have been judged. Throughout the litigation, Plaintiff made
discovery. In addition, she filed a Motion for Relief from Judgment pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) based in part on the alleged fraud or
misconduct of Defendants. This Court denied the Motion, stating:
Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants withheld documents
from her during discovery. This is not the first time that Plaintiff
has made allegations against Defendants of this nature. Indeed,
many of her grievances in this Motion appear to be repetitive of
those she has aired before. This Court has already reprimanded
Plaintiff for her insistence on making baseless allegations of
ethical misconduct against Defendants and their counsel. Plaintiff
has provided no evidence that Defendants engaged in any
Plaintiff appealed the denial of her Rule 60(b) Motion to the Fifth Circuit Court
of Appeals. The Fifth Circuit affirmed this Court’s ruling, noting that Plaintiff
had “repeatedly made conclusory allegations that [Defendants] withheld
documents during discovery without providing significant evidentiary
Plaintiff now brings an entirely new action (“the Second Litigation”) in
this Court in which she asserts the following causes of action against
1. Fraud in the First Litigation
2. Perjury in the First Litigation
3. Defamation in the First Litigation
4. Concealing evidence in the First Litigation
Bradford v. The Law Firm of Gauthier, Houghtaling Williams, LLP et al., No. 1530679, at *3 (5th Cir. 2016).
5. Violation and Sabotage of the pre-trial notice, the January 22, 2014
Order, and the discovery phase of the First Litigation
Defendants have filed the instant Motion to Dismiss, arguing that this
action is foreclosed by the doctrine of res judicata.
To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead
enough facts “to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” 3 A claim
is “plausible on its face” when the pleaded facts allow the court to “draw
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” 4
A court must accept the complaint’s factual allegations as true and must “draw
all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff’s favor.” 5 The court need not, however,
accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. 6 To be legally
sufficient, a complaint must establish more than a “sheer possibility” that the
plaintiff’s claims are true. 7 If it is apparent from the face of the complaint that
an insurmountable bar to relief exists and the plaintiff is not entitled to relief,
The court’s review is limited to the
the court must dismiss the claim. 8
complaint and any documents attached to the motion to dismiss that are
central to the claim and referenced by the complaint. 9
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 547 (2007)).
5 Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 232 (5th Cir. 2009).
6 Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
8 Lormand, 565 F.3d at 255–57.
9 Collins v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498 (5th Cir. 2000).
LAW AND ANALYSIS
“When a federal court sitting in diversity is considering the collateral
estoppel effect of a prior federal judgment, this Circuit applies federal common
“Under res judicata, a final judgment on the merits of an action
precludes the parties or their privies from relitigating issues that were or could
have been raised in that action.” 11 In order for a claim to be barred by the
doctrine of res judicata, the following requirements must be met: (1) the parties
must be identical or in privity; (2) the judgment in the prior action must have
been rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction; (3) the prior action must
have been concluded by a final judgment on the merits; and (4) the same claim
or cause of action must have been involved in both actions. 12 Defendants argue
that all of these requirements are satisfied here. This Court will consider each
1. Identical Parties
In the First Litigation, Plaintiff brought claims against GHW, Williams,
and Earl Perry. In this litigation, she has named GHW and Williams. Plaintiff
alleges that the removal of Perry as a Defendant renders the identical parties
requirement unfulfilled. It is well settled, however, that “[t]o satisfy this
identity element, the parties need not be identical to the parties in the first
action.” 13 What is important, however, is that the parties claiming res judicata
were parties to both the first and second actions. Here both GHW and Williams
were defendants in Plaintiff’s first action. Accordingly, this element is
Rabo Agrifinance, Inc. v. Terra XXI, Ltd., 583 F.3d 348, 353 (5th Cir. 2009).
Retractable Techs., Inc. v. Becton Dickinson & Co., 842 F.3d 883, 898 (5th Cir. 2016).
12 Comer v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc., 718 F.3d 460, 467 (5th Cir. 2013).
13 N.Y. Life Ins. Co. v. Deshotel, 946 F. Supp. 454, 462 (E.D. La. 1996), aff’d, 142 F.3d
873 (5th Cir. 1998).
2. Court of Competent Jurisdiction
No party has argued that this Court lacked jurisdiction to render
judgment in the First Litigation.
3. Final Judgment on the Merits
No party contends that the First Litigation did not result in a final
judgment on the merits.
4. Same Claim or Cause of Action
In considering the final factor, the Fifth Circuit applies “a ‘transactional
test’ . . . focusing on whether the cases are based on the same nucleus of
operative facts. 14 “For res judicata purposes, the identical issues need not have
been actually raised in the original action; rather, the test is whether the right,
claim, or theory of recovery sought to be asserted arises out of all or any part
of the transaction, or series of connected transactions out of which the first
action arose.” 15 “The rule is that res judicata bars all claims that were or could
have been advanced in support of the cause of action on the occasion of its
former adjudication, . . . not merely those that were adjudicated.” 16
Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s allegations of wrongdoing against
Defendants are identical to those made throughout the First Litigation, in her
Rule 60(b) Motion, and on appeal. They point out that both this Court and the
Fifth Circuit have addressed Plaintiff’s allegations of fraud against Defendants
and have found them to be meritless.
A reading of Plaintiff’s Complaint and opposition herein confirms
Defendant’s position. Both filings are rife with facts and arguments that were
at issue in the First Litigation. In the First Litigation, Plaintiff sought
Retractable Techs., Inc. v. Becton Dickinson & Co., 842 F.3d 883, 899 (5th Cir. 2016)
(internal quotations omitted).
15 Deshotel, 946 F. Supp. at 462.
16 Mag-Dolphus, Inc. v. Ohio Cas. Ins. Co., 40 F. Supp. 3d 817, 826 (S.D. Tex. 2014)
(internal quotations omitted).
damages for legal malpractice and consistently alleged that Defendants were
engaged in fraudulent behavior aimed at preventing her success in that action.
In the Second Litigation, Plaintiff brings claims regarding the fraudulent
behavior she alleges occurred during the First Litigation. Plaintiff’s opposition
even reminds this Court that she attempted to amend her Complaint in the
First Litigation to add claims of fraud and perjury, but her request was denied
because she failed to plead those claims with specificity. These actions clearly
arise out of the same nucleus of operative facts if a properly plead claim of
fraud or perjury might have been entertained in the First Litigation. This
Court finds that the claims brought herein arise out of all or part of the
transaction at issue in the First Litigation. Indeed, this Court has already
rejected the argument Plaintiff seeks to assert herein. Accordingly, all of the
elements required for the application of the doctrine of res judicata are met.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ Motion is GRANTED, and this
matter is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
New Orleans, Louisiana this 10th day of January, 2017.
JANE TRICHE MILAZZO
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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