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Leoncavallo v. Evans

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle County

November 9, 1954

Salvatore Michael LEONCAVALLO, Plaintiff below appellant,
v.
Harold D. EVANS, Defendant below appellee.

Independent actions by each of two persons against the other for damages sustained in an automobile collision. From one of two judgments of the Court of Common Pleas, Newcastle County, for each defendant, one of plaintiffs appealed and the other plaintiff filed a counterclaim in such appeal. On appellant's motion to strike the counterclaim, the Superior Court, Layton, J., held that counterclaimant's cause of action was res judicata, as the facts constituting the counterclaim were the same as those forming the subject matter of his action in the court below and the parties were the same.

Motion granted.

Plaintiff below, hereafter called Leoncavallo, and defendant below, referred to as Evans, had an automobile collision on January 15, 1954. Each brought an independent action against the other in the Court of Common Pleas.[1] On April 22, 1954, [49 Del. 63] judgment was entered in favor of each defendant in each action. Leoncavallo filed a timely appeal to the Superior Court. Evans did not appeal but filed a counterclaim in the Leoncavallo appeal.

Leoncavallo has moved to strike the Evans counterclaim upon the ground that the cause of action was fully litigated in Common Pleas Court and is res adjudicata. Evans defends his right to assert it upon the ground that the Superior Court appeal constitutes a trial de novo in which a defendant by Rule 13, Del.C.Ann., is entitled to file a counterclaim.

Stephen E. Hamilton, Jr., Wilmington, Del., for plaintiff below.

Donald W. Booker, Wilmington, Del., for defendant below.

LAYTON, Judge.

The facts constituting the Evans counterclaim are the same as those forming the subject matter of his suit against Leoncavallo in the Court below. The parties are the same. The matter is res adjudicata. Jones v. Charles Warner Co., 2 Boyce 566, 83 A. 131.Rule 13, of course, permits the filing of a counterclaim but the subject matter of this counterclaim has been litigated and he is barred from asserting it.

Evans complains that to sustain the Leoncavallo motion would encourage the disposition of litigation by technicality

Page 396

rather than on the merits. There are two answers to this point of view. First, the two suits here involved constituted separated actions in the lower Court. Evans could have appealed but failed to do so. He should not now be permitted to relitigate his cause under the guise of a counterclaim. Secondly, the doctrine of res adjudicata is based more upon a public policy that there be an end to litigation than on the rights or benefits of the parties involved. Coca-Cola Co. v. Pepsi-Cola Co., 6 W.W.Harr. 124, 172 A. 260. Thus, the ...


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