Motions to Dismiss Where The Same Parties Are (Already) Litigating In Another Forum

In Hergan v. Pawlan Law, LLC (2013 IL App 1st) 113812-U, the First District applies the “same parties, same cause” motion to dismiss rule.

The plaintiff sued defendant and her lawyer based on fraudulent statements made in connection with various loan transactions stemming from a realty investment contract. There were some four (4) other lawsuits pending at the time plaintiff sued.  The Court granted the defendants’ 2-619(a)(3) motion based on the multiple pending cases involving the litigants.

Illinois Code Section 2-619(a)(3) governs dismissal of a complaint where there is “another action pending between the same parties for the same cause.” 735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(3).  This section is a procedural device aimed at avoiding duplicative litigation. It applies where there is a pending case involving the same parties for the same cause.

The “same parties” requirement doesn’t require that the parties be identical; all that’s required is that the litigants’ interests be sufficiently similar. The 2-619(a)(3) movant demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the two (or more) actions stem from the same underlying transaction and involve parties whose interests are substantially aligned. ¶¶ 26-27.

The test is whether the different actions stem from the same underlying transaction; not whether the specific legal theories or causes of action are the same. So, if in the prior case, the complaint sounds in breach of contract and in the later filed case, the complaint seeks rescission, the second case can still be dismissed if it derives from the same underlying facts.

Once the movant establishes that the same parties and same cause are involved in two (or more) separate suits, the Court examines four factors: (1) comity (giving respect to another forum’s decisions); (2) preventing multiplicity, vexation and harassment; (3) the likelihood of obtaining complete relief in another forum; and (4) the res judicata effect of a foreign judgment on the local forum.

The Court doesn’t have to weigh all four factors; just the one(s) applicable to a given case.  Here, the only factor that applied was the “multiplicity” one. Clearly, the five pending suits involved the same parties and the same transaction: the loans and investment contract. As a result, there was clear multiplicity among the various actions involving the parties. The other factors didn’t apply because all five suits were pending in the same forum – the Cook County Circuit Court. ¶¶ 29, 33-36.


Hergan provides a cogent summary of the elements that a 2-619(a)(3) movant must establish when trying to dismiss an action based on a pending suit involving the same parties and same cause;

The case demonstrates that where multiple suits are filed involving common litigants, principles of judicial economy and efficiency will weigh in favor of dismissing repetitive actions and instead consolidating them into already pending cases.

N.D.Ill. Examines Res Judicata and Claim-Splitting Doctrines

In Tank v. T-Mobile USA, Inc., 2013 WL 4401375, the Northern District of Illinois examined the reach of the res judicata and claim-splitting doctrines in an employment discrimination suit. 

In 2012, the plaintiff sued T-Mobile, his former employer, for employment discrimination and for violating the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (the “TCA”), which outlaws employers accessing “customers’ proprietary network information” (basically, “cell phone records”) without the customer’s consent.  Plaintiff’s TCA count claimed the defendant accessed plaintiff’s cell phone records without his permission while looking into plaintiff’s EEOC claim against the telecom giant. 

This was plaintiff’s second discrimination suit against T-Mobile. In 2011, he filed similar Federal employment discrimination claims (but not a TCA claim) which were defeated on T-Mobile’s summary judgment motion.  After plaintiff filed his second action in 2012, T-Mobile moved to dismiss on the basis of res judicata and improper claim-splitting.  T-Mobile argued that plaintiff’s 2012 case was based on the same operative facts as his 2011 suit (which T-Mobile won on summary judgment) and so the 2012 case was defeated by res judicata’s and claim-splitting.

Held: The Court denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s TCA claim and granted the motion to dismiss plaintiff’s employment discrimination claims.


Res judicata and claim-splitting both aim to prevent repetitive and duplicative litigation; ensuring that all factually-related claims are brought in a single case. 

Res judicata’s elements:

(1) an identity of causes of actions (that is, the second claim is based on the same core of operative facts as the previously litigated “first” claim);

(2) identity of parties or their privies (a fact-specific inquiry decided on case-by-case basis); and

(3) a final judgment on the merits (final judgment = judgment based on the parties’ legal rights as opposed to matters of practice, procedure, jurisdiction or form)  

Claim-Splitting Doctrine

Related to res judicata, claim-splitting differs in only a single sense: while res judicata contemplates a final judgment and separate, sequential lawsuits, claim-splitting applies to two currently pending lawsuits that have not yet reached the final judgment stage.  The claim-splitting doctrine provides the basis for dismissal where two pending lawsuits are duplicative of  one another.    

The ‘Single Core of Operative Facts’ Element 

The Court held that plaintiff’s TCA claims (based on T-Mobile’s (alleged) cell phone snooping) were not barred by res judicata or claim-splitting.  While both the 2011 and 2012 suits pled T-Mobile’s discriminatory conduct, only the 2012 suit alleged T-Mobile violated the TCA’s privacy provisions by scouring plaintiff’s cell phone.  As a result, the Court found that the core of underlying facts giving rise to the 2011 suit (which exclusively involved employment discrimination claims) differed from the 2012 suit (which additionally involved T-Mobile’s violation of the TCA).  *5-6. 

Take-aways: Res judicata and claim-splitting are properly brought as part of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.  The Tank Court gives content to the same claim/same core of operative facts element of res judicata/claim-splitting and shows a willingness to look into factual differences between two separate lawsuits which look on the same on the surface.

Tank provides ammunition to litigants opposing res judicata or claim-splitting pleadings motions by highlighting what a court should focus on when analyzing the same cause/identity of cause action element of the defenses.