Bridgeman v. SD Warren
February 16, 2018
Mental Injury Work-Related Stress Res Judicata
Summary from the Troubh Heisler Attorneys
Mr. Bridgman alleged a mental stress injury from racial harassment at work from 1994 to 1999. The WCB found that he had sustained a gradual mental stress injury but that he had failed to provide timely notice of that injury and therefore denied his petition. Several years later Mr. Bridgman filed a new petition alleging a mental stress injury from a specific incident in 1994. S.D. Warren raised the defense of res judicata, but Judge Collier granted Mr. Bridgman's petition, concluding that res judicata did not bar his claim, because he was now claiming a specific date of injury rather than an injury of the course of several years. S.D. Warren appealed.
The Appellate Division entered an order vacating Judge Collier’s decision and denying Mr. Bridgman’s petition. The panel found that the matter was “actually litigated” in the first action, including events that occurred in 1994. It found that Mr. Bridgman’s two claims “constitute the same cause of action,” based on “the same nucleus of operative facts,” and seeking to redress “essentially the same basic wrong” for “a single injury.” The panel said Mr. Bridgman had “essentially repackaged a claim” the Board had previously rejected, and that he presented no evidence of a “change in the severity and nature” of his symptoms.