Bruno v. Geller
Claim preclusion bars the pursuit of any claims relating to a cause of action that were actually made or that might have been made. In an earlier divorce action, Lisa Bruno claimed that her ex-husband, Stephen, violated the courts automatic orders, because he allegedly was discharged and forfeited a 5 percent partnership interest in Dalton Greiner Hartman Maher & Co. that was worth $8 to $10 million. Lisa called Daltons chief executive officer, Bruce Geller, as a witness. In 2008, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Sidney Axelrod concluded that Lisa failed to prove fraud or bad faith by Dalton or the law firm of Mintz Levin. Lisa sued Dalton and Mintz Levin in New York Supreme Court, alleging that they attempted to prevent the distribution of part of Stephens partnership interest. In 2009, the New York Supreme Court held that the suit was barred by collateral estoppel, because Judge Axelrod concluded there was no fraud as a result of Stephens discharge and settlement agreement. The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court affirmed. In 2010, Lisa sued Dalton and its chief executive officer, Bruce Geller, in Connecticut Superior Court. The Connecticut Superior Court found that collateral estoppel barred Lisas claims. Lisa appealed. Here, the Connecticut Appellate Court held that res judicata barred Lisas suit. Res judicata provides that a final judgment on the merits by a court of competent jurisdiction is conclusive and bars a subsequent action on the same claim, regardless of the additional evidence or theories alleged in the subsequent action. The New York judgment, which was on the merits, was based on the same underlying allegations of fraud in Stephens discharge and settlement agreement. The plaintiff, in her third attempt to prove the previously rejected claims of fraud, wrote the Connecticut Appellate Court, cannot simply cite in a new defendant and put new labels on her causes of action to get around the New York judgment, when it is quite clear that the allegations of her complaint are based on the same underlying claims of fraud. The Connecticut Appellate Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court.