Citation. 497 F.3d 1096 (10th Cir. 2007)
Plaintiff sued Defendant for damages caused by the Defendant’s gas leak. Defendant argued the Plaintiff’s claims should have been brought as compulsory counterclaims in the previous lawsuit and were thus barred by claim preclusion.
A compulsory counterclaim must arise from the same transaction or occurrence as the original claim. Claim preclusion bars claims that involve the same evidence, factual issues, and legal issues.
Valley View Angus Ranch (Plaintiff) sued Duke Energy Field Services (Defendant) for trespass, nuisance, and unjust enrichment when a gas leak damaged the ranch. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the claim was barred by claim preclusion from a previous case that established Defendant had an easement on Plaintiff’s property and that Plaintiff’s current claims should have been brought as compulsory counterclaims in the previous lawsuit.
Did the trial court properly grant summary judgment on the basis of claim preclusion and compulsory counterclaim?
No, the trial court should not have granted summary judgment for the Defendant. The case is reversed and remanded.
The Court determined that the Plaintiff was not required to bring the trespass and nuisance claims as compulsory counterclaims in the previous lawsuit. This conclusion was based on a finding that Plaintiff’s lawsuit was not barred by claim preclusion because it involved different evidence and different legal and factual issues than the easement claim in the previous lawsuit. The Plaintiff’s current lawsuit would focus on the cause and extent of the gas leak rather than the validity of the easement, the evidence supporting this focus would be different from the previous lawsuit, and the mere fact that the two lawsuits involved the same property was not sufficient to create a compulsory counterclaim.