Monday, August 9, 2010

A really bad week leads to decision on res judicata effect of arbitrator's award on related action

Anthony Liquori suffered personal injuries in an automobile accident with Zachary Wyman on September 24, 2004, and was injured again in an accident with Robert Pelley on September 27, 2004.

Liquori settled his claim against Wyman for Wyman's $20,000 policy limits. He then sought underinsured motorist coverage from his own insurer, Travelers. In an arbitration of the underinsured motorist claim he submitted medical bills totalling $10,716.10.

The arbitrator ruled that based on the materials submitted, it was impossible to determine which medical bills were solely attributable to the Wyman accident and not to the Pelley accident. She held that the Wyman accident was not responsible for more than one third of his nine percent impairment rating, and awarded $4,752.93.

Liquori's claim against Pelley continued. He submitted to the court the medical bills he had submitted in the Wyman arbitration, plus some addiditonal bills.

Pelley moved to exclude from evidence the medical records and bills that had been submitted to the Wyman arbitrator, on the ground that the arbitrator's award was res judicata as to Liquori's total damages.

In Liquori v. Pelley, 2010 WL 2010875 (Mass. App. Div.) the Massachusetts Appellate Division held that there was no issue preclusion, because there was no identity of issues between the Wyman arbitration and the Pelley trial. In the Pelley trial the issue was the amount of Liquori's damages for injuries caused by the Pelley accident. In the Wyman arbitration the issue was the amount of Liquori's damages caused by the Wyman accident. The Wyman arbitration did not determine Liquori's total damages from both accidents. Even if the arbitrator implicitly determined damages from the Pelley accident, such finding was not essential to the arbitrator's determination.

No comments: