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Waterhouse v. Levine

    Brief Fact Summary.

    After an earlier suit on a contract for the sale of goods was dismissed as not ripe, Levine (Defendant) argued that a second suit in which Waterhouse (Plaintiff) sought to collect for the delivered goods was barred by res judicata.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Dismissal of an action as not ripe does not bar a later action on the same claim once the cause of action has ripened

    Facts.

    When Defendant did not pay Plaintiff for goods sold and delivered, Plaintiff sued. Previously, a suit on the same contract had been dismissed as not yet ripe because the payment was not yet due. Defendant argued that the second suit was barred by res judicata and Plaintiff claimed that the earlier dismissal was not a judgment on the merits and therefore did not bar the second action. The trial court found for Plaintiff and entered judgment on his behalf. Defendant appealed.

    Issue.

    Does dismissal of an action as not ripe bar a later action on the same claim when the controversy has ripened?

    Held.

    (Barker, J.) No. Dismissal of an action as not ripe does not bar a later action on the same claim once the cause of action has ripened. A dismissal as premature is not a judgment on the merits in the earlier suit, it is only a judicial determination that the cause of action is not yet ripe enough to litigate on the merits. Once corrected, a new suit is allowed. In this case, the earlier suit did not decide the underlying issues, so the dismissal is not a bar to the present action. Exceptions overruled.

    Discussion.

    Similarly, courts apply the same approach to cases brought in courts without jurisdiction, with improper venue, or failing to join an indispensable party. When the suit is dismissed on one of these technical grounds before reaching a consideration on the merits, the action may be refiled once the defect is corrected.


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