In a decision handed down in the last few days of June, In the Matter of Eq.W., M.W., A.W., S.W., and Ez.W. (Minor Children); V.B. (Mother) vs. Indiana Department of Child Services, the Indiana Supreme Court concluded that claim preclusion (also called res judicata) applies to Child in Need of Services (CHINS) cases. This article provides a birds-eye explanation of the case and what it means moving forward.
Claim preclusion is a procedural doctrine that prevents re-litigating the same basic claim. There’s another type of preclusion, called issue preclusion, but that wasn’t one of the issues in the case the Court decided. Basically, claim preclusion exists to prevent one party (usually the losing party, but not always) from trying to get another bite at the apple. There are four requirements for claim preclusion: (1) the court that issued the first judgment had to have proper jurisdiction: (2) the first judgment had to be decided on the merits (that means an actual decision); (3) the second case involved issues that were or could have been decided in the first case; and (4) the first case involved the same parties as the second case (or their privies). If all four requirements are met, the second claim is barred.
In In the Matter of Eq.W., the trial court had dismissed the first petition alleging the children were CHINS. But the next day, the Department of Child Services (DCS) filed another petition alleging the same children were CHINS. As the Indiana Supreme Court explained, the second petition contained no allegations that occurred after the fact-finding hearing and before DCS filed the second petition. Because of this, the second petition was clearly “a second bite at the apple.”
Res Judicata is a very challenging subject, and you should consult with a lawyer to make sure your rights are protected.
Similarly, dealing with DCS or CPS can be very difficult. There are many moving parts, and often people will lie. Randall Parr has nearly forty years of experience, and he has represented clients against DCS allegations in Indianapolis and the surrounding areas.