Health Law Practice Group Update: Attorneys Successfully Asserts Claim-Splitting Doctrine

This month, Edward Sedlacek and Crystal Deese secured dismissal of an individual physician from a malpractice suit despite Plaintiff’s two-pronged attempt to add her into the litigation. Plaintiff sued a hospital in 2019 claiming permanent injuries due to inappropriate postoperative management. In 2021, Plaintiff filed a separate suit making the same allegations against his surgeon. We moved to dismiss the new suit arguing that the claim-splitting doctrine (which applies res judicata principles to concurrently pending cases) applied to preclude the new filing. Judge Anthony Epstein in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia agreed. In the claim-splitting context, a second suit is barred if the claim involves the same parties or their privies and arises out of the same transaction or series of transactions as the first claim.

In response to the defense’s motion to dismiss the separate lawsuit against the physician, Plaintiff sought leave to amend his complaint against the hospital to name the surgeon and/or to consolidate the two cases. He cited the liberal standard applicable to amendments under Rule 15 and judicial economy as support for consolidating after amendment. Judge Shana Frost Matini denied the motion to consolidate based on the claim-splitting doctrine. Judge Matini further denied Plaintiff’s request to amend his Complaint, despite the liberal leave standard, because he knew about his claim against the surgeon when he sued the hospital and that case had been pending for 2 years.