Kleinman v. Chapnick
The applicability of the prior pending action doctrine does not turn on the issue of whether the two actions seek the same remedy; rather, the key question is whether the two actions are brought to adjudicate the same underlying rights. The marriage of the plaintiff, Bernard Kleinman, and the defendant, Ann Chapnick, was dissolved. The dissolution court issued orders including that the defendant would retain all personal property in the marital home except for certain personal items belonging to the plaintiff such as his clothing, a Hess truck collection, and specified photographs of his parents. The plaintiff commenced this action against the defendant alleging conversion of his personal property. He claimed that he left certain items of personal property in the marital residence, and, despite repeated demands, the defendant refused to return certain property to his possession. The plaintiff sought $100,000 in damages for conversion and an order directing the defendant to provide an accounting of all personalty in the former marital residence on two dates plus punitive damages of $100,000, legal fees and costs and other further relief. The trial court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint as barred by the prior pending action doctrine finding that this conversion action and the dissolution action were brought by the same plaintiff against the same defendant and involved the same subject matter?items of personal property sought by the plaintiff. The plaintiff appealed arguing that the court improperly dismissed his complaint pursuant to the prior pending action doctrine. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The trial court properly determined that the two actions were virtually alike and did not abuse its discretion in granting the motion to dismiss pursuant to the prior pending action doctrine. The trial court determined that both actions pertained to a determination of the parties' property rights in certain items located in the marital residence. It noted that the court in the dissolution action awarded ownership of the truck collection, photographs and clothes to the plaintiff. If the defendant disregarded those orders, the plaintiff could pursue a remedy against the defendant with a motion for contempt.