Bordeaux v. Ingersoll Rand Co., 38810

Decision Date08 June 1967
Docket NumberNo. 38810,38810
Citation429 P.2d 207,71 Wn.2d 392
CourtWashington Supreme Court
PartiesJohn J. BORDEAUX and Frances A. Bordeaux, his wife, Appellants, v. INGERSOLL RAND COMPANY, a Corporation, Respondents.

Greive & Law, R. R. Bob Greive, Seattle, for appellants.

Reed, McClure & Moceri, Gerald R. Moran, Seattle, for respondents.

HALE, Judge.

Where the Supervisor of Industrial Insurance, on a finding that claimant's condition was not the result of the injury alleged, rejects a claim for compensation and medical aid based on a severe and protracted nosebleed occurring during employment, is such rejection res judicata of a subsequent action brought by the claimant against a third party for the same injury arising out of the same occurrence?

John J. Bordeaux worked for the Port of Seattle with the railroad track and maintenance crew. While tamping rock around railroad ties with a power-driven pneumatic tamping machine, January 19, 1962, he suffered a severe and persistent nosebleed. He was hospitalized for more than a week under professional medical care and discharged from but returned to the hospital for a few more days before the bleeding could be stopped.

On a regular one-half page form supplied by the Department of Labor and Industries, in the 2-line space allotted for that purpose, Mr. Bordeaux described the accident as 'Operating Air Pneumatic Power Tamper, and nose started bleeding.' The departmental form required little additional information other than claimant's age, address, the name of his attending physician, and a brief statement identifying the employer and place of the injury. Indeed, one of the cardinal virtues of the department's claim form is its simplicity; it calls for no information that a man of ordinary intelligence and modest education cannot easily supply.

The Supervisor of Industrial Insurance, in a written order of February 16, 1962, rejected Mr. Bordeaux's claim, giving the following reasons:

1. That claimant's condition is not the result of injury alleged.

2. That claimant's condition is not the result of an injury as defined by the Workmen's Compensation Act.

After a number of procedural steps, 1 Mr. Bordeaux appealed the supervisor's order of rejection to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, and then, to allow time for a third-party action, requested a six month's postponement of his appeal. The board granted the six months' continuance on condition that, if it were not prosecuted within that period, the appeal would be automatically dismissed. Claimant having failed to prosecute his appeal within the six months, the board thereupon gave him formal notice of dismissal.

While his appeal was--as the board expressed it in its order of June 18, 1964--in a state of suspense, Mr. Bordeaux brought the present action in August, 1964, against Ingersoll Rand Company, manufacturer of the tamping machine. He alleged that the tamping machine was new, had been recently delivered to the Port of Seattle by defendant manufacturer, and, because of defects in construction, transferred a major part of the shock and vibration to the operator of the machine, thereby causing his severe nasal hemorrhage. Defendant Ingersoll Rand pleaded as an affirmative defense the decision of the supervisor and dismissal of the appeal as res judicata of the instant action, and, after hearing evidence relating to this defense, the trial court entered a judgment of dismissal with prejudice.

The judgment of dismissal recited that, when the supervisor rejected the claim on a ruling that the nosebleed was not caused by the use of the tie tamper and the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals dismissed an appeal from this rejection, claimant, in not appealing therefrom to the superior court, became bound thereby as a final adjudication, and that the judgment became res judicata and created a collateral estoppel, final and conclusive against claimant as to the causal connection between use of the machine and the nose bleed. Claimant Bordeaux now appeals this judgment of dismissal, particularly that part of the judgment which precludes him from relitigating the issues of causation.

Was the supervisor's decision, that operation of the pneumatic tamper did not cause plaintiff's nosebleed, res judicata of an action against the manufacturer and seller of the same machine? If not res judicata, does a collateral estoppel arise therefrom to prevent plaintiff from going forward with his case?

Res judicata and collateral estoppel, kindred doctrines designed to prevent relitigation of already determined causes and curtail multiplicity of actions and harrassment in the courts, are at times indistinguishable and frequently interchangeable. If the differences must be noted, it could be said that res judicata is the more comprehensive doctrine, identifying a prior judgment arising our of the same cause of action between the same parties, whereas a collateral estoppel relates to and bars relitigation on a particular issue or determinative fact. Both doctrines require a large measure of identity as to parties, issues and facts, and in neither can the party urging the two doctrines as a defense be a stranger to the prior proceeding. He must have been a party, a participant, or in privity with either, and the action out of which the bar is claimed must be qualitatively the same as the case in which the doctrine is set up as a bar. Where res judicata precludes relitigation of an entire cause because of an identity of parties and issues culminating in a judgment, collateral estoppel is less inclusive, preventing retrial of but one or more of the crucial issues or determinative facts. Owens v. Kuro, 56 Wash.2d 564, 354 P.2d 696 (1960); Riblet v. Ideal Cement Co., 54 Wash.2d 779, 345 P.2d 173 (1959); 2 Orland, Wash. Prac. § 387 (2d ed., 1965).

We recognized this principle in Owens v. Kuro, supra, when we said:

A judgment is not Res judicata nor is one collaterally estopped by judgment in a later case if there is no identity or privity of parties in the same antagonistic relation as in the decided action. Riblet v. Ideal Cement Co. (54 Wash.2d 779), 345 P.2d 173; Rufener v. Scott (46 Wash.2d 240) 280 P.2d 253. An estoppel must be mutual and cannot apply for or against a stranger to a judgment since a stranger's rights cannot be determined in his absence from the controversy. * * *

In Northern Pac. R. Co. v. Snohomish Cy., 101 Wash. 686, 172 P. 878 (1918), we set forth the essential ingredients of res judicata:

To make a judgment Res judicata in a subsequent action there must be a concurrence of identity in four respects: (1) Of subject-matter; (2) of cause of action; (3) of persons and parties; and (4) in the quality of the persons for or against whom the claim is made. * * *

If we apply Northern Pac. R. Co. v. Snohomish Cy., supra, to the present case, we note only one of its four ingredients, i.e., a concurrence of subject matter between the proceedings before the supervisor and the present action against Ingersoll Rand--the cause of plaintiff's nosebleed. The other three ingredients of res judicata as delineated in Northern Pac. R. Co., supra, seem lacking.

Concerning the want of a concurring identity between the two causes of action (element (2) above), the claim for compensation filed originally with the supervisor was at the outset wholly nonadversary; the present action is wholly adversary. The claim before the supervisor began with delivery of a...

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    ...estoppel and res judicata are equitable doctrines that preclude relitigation of already determined causes. Bordeaux v. Ingersoll Rand Co. , 71 Wash.2d 392, 395-96, 429 P.2d 207 (1967). Both doctrines share a common goal of judicial finality. State v. Dupard , 93 Wash.2d 268, 272, 609 P.2d 9......
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